On Wax: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is a sneaky album. That’s an odd thing for me to say considering its grand title. It’s even odder considering that many of the ten tracks on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix could be easily described as “immediate” or “propulsive,” and not “growers” or “tough.” See, the thing is that if someone forced me to make a list of my top 50 or 100 albums, I probably wouldn’t put Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix on that list. Back in the Spring of 2009 when it was released, I was more focused on my upcoming high school graduation, and my impending journey to college. So, I was maybe a little too distracted to focus on Phoenix, a band that could be succinctly, but probably incorrectly summarized as “the Strokes via France” (my apologies to music nerds, French people, and French music nerds).


But, Wolfgang has come back at a few different points in my life in the decade that has gone by since then, and I gain a greater appreciation for what is at work on this album the more I listen to it. It may not have as much of a personal connection to me as some other albums from this era in music, but, in hindsight, this is one of the best front to back albums of its genre, and one that I desperately wish I could have experienced more of when it was first released.


The first two tracks on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix need no introduction. It is hard to think of an another indie album with as strong of an opening back to back as “Lisztomania” and “1901,” and together, they provide the perfect introduction to the vibe of the rest of the album. These are bubbly, effervescent, joyful, and straight up danceable songs, and if you were ever looking for a reason to dance down the street (or the roof of a building of my alma-mater), these should do the trick. These two songs are the most accessible on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, but, focusing on those two tracks alone would be doing a disservice to the rest of this wonderful LP. This album is chock full of hooks, from the more obvious “in your face” rhythmic hooks of the aforementioned opening tracks, to more subtle ones like the repetitious vocal hooks of tracks like “Lasso,” and “Rome.” Even tracks that could be classified as more “middle of the road” such as “Girlfriend” and “Armistice” have some of the juiciest instrumental hooks that you can really sink your teeth into. This is all without mentioning the electric personality of the “Love Like A Sunset” suite, which is a cathartic, look-up-at-the-stars-and-ponder-your-place-in-this-crazy-world piece of music that offers a nice respite from the rest of this mainly upbeat and energetic album.

With this album recently celebrating its ten year anniversary, vinyl club “Vinyl Me, Please” issued a remarkable reissue of the album, and, despite its high price tag, I’m extremely satisfied with the look and the sound of the gatefold package that they have put out. The album itself is cut on thick 180g pink vinyl that has nearly no surface noise and sounds very open; every instrument has its place in the mix and comes through clear. Its color contrasts beautifully with the special edition “mirror” style cover that unique to this edition. Speaking of that cover – it’s so shiny. I’m not one to fall into the whole “it’s shiny, I want it” part of human nature that often, but holy cow, it really makes the album artwork pop so much more than the original seen above. Truth be told, that’s a large part of the reason why I opted to get this club version instead of buying the standard edition for half the cost.

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This is actually the third VMP release that I’ve purchased – the first, My Morning Jacket’s Z, I got secondhand and unfortunately didn’t have all the goodies, but I did manage to snag VMP’s edition of De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising directly from them. I’m not going to subscribe to a vinyl service like Vinyl Me, Please anytime soon, since it is largely dependent on you enjoying whatever they decide to put out, but I really do hope that they keep putting out records and packages like this, despite my wallet protesting otherwise.


Thanks for reading! You can purchase the Vinyl Me, Please edition of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix here, and be sure to check out my other “On Wax” write-ups, as well!


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