BEST NEW INDIE: PHOENIX - J-BOY
Phoenix’s career has largely mirrored and paralleled the listening tastes and trends of the 21st Century. From the classy, sophisticated urban strut of their Strokes-ian debut of Consolation Prizes to the polished chrome and starburst lasers of 2009’s 1901. What once seemed charming and optimistic quickly becoming over-sensationalized, migraine-inducing business with Entertainment, perhaps a satire on our Society Of The Spectacle but more likely being a symptom of Phoenix buying into the hype and trying to stay on the bandwagon for as long as possible. This trend culminates with Phoenix’s last album, Bankrupt!, with the band still crying to pack every inch of the stereo field, like a musical equivalent of a Jerry Bruckheimer film.
Like many of us, Phoenix seem to be growing tired of the maximalist HD pop, in favor of something more personal, if “J-Boy,” the lead single off of the upcoming Ti Amo is any indication.
PHOENIX - J-BOY
Like recent Daft Punk or even Bruno Mars, Phoenix have traded in the polished plastic sheen for a softer, more faded, more inviting presentation. It’s the sound of a Polaroid instead of a never-aging selfie (which, most of us agree, are kind of creepy, like Dorian Grey’s portrait mocking us with their endless, unchanging youth). “J-Boy” is still futuristic, have no doubt about that, but it’s retrofuturistic, turning back the clock to when synthesizers and drum machines still signalled freedom, optimism, and a brighter future. It recalls the Last Days Of Disco, before “The Summer Of Sam,” before the HIV epidemic, before The War On Drugs, when it was all hedonism, excess, escape, and abandon.
Is this genuine optimism, or another form of escape, viewing the world through rosy-hued Snapchat filters so we don’t see the hellish post-apocalypse we’re living in? Like with most Pop Music, it’s a little bit of both.
Sometimes it can be hard to know which way to turn, where to direct our energies as we combat hydra-headed corruption from seemingly every direction. Even activists and caregivers need to let loose and rejuvenate (probably now more so than ever). With “J-Boy” Phoenix reassure us that things can be okay, as long as we come together, remember to appreciate the good things in life, to take care of ourselves and have fun! Seeing as how stress is likely to be considered a pre-existing health condition, remember to breathe deep and try to relax! Lord knows we’re all going to need our strength, in the months and weeks to come.
At We Are: The Guard, we encourage any and all freedom fighters to also remember to protect themselves. And also, it’s okay to feel good, even when we feel like trash. “J-Boy” will make you feel good, if you like pre-distressed electro disco, a la LCD Soundsystem or the late Arthur Russell.
J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.