Phoenix is one of those bands easily devoured, quietly admired, and chronically overlooked. Slick, almost effortless electronic pop with a distinctly French twist, Phoenix deserves to be so much bigger than they are, but the superb It’s Never Been Like That doesn’t suggest their low profile will be raised any time soon. The accompanying press materials reveal that Phoenix conceived the album “with a live mentality,” an approach that yields pleasing results: the candy-coated “Consolation Prizes,” the jazzy propulsion of “Long Distance Call,” and the brittle sunshine of “Rally” make the record a breezy, uncalculated joy. Having recorded the album in an abandoned State Radio complex in Berlin, Phoenix has emerged with a disc that sounds as though it were made anywhere but. It’s Never Been Like That is also billed as a reboot of sorts for the Gallic quartet. Having successfully evaded the sophomore jinx with Alphabetical, this too-brief set of 10 songs is both a break with the past and a fervent glance toward the future. Whether Phoenix ever rises above the rank of woefully little-known indie-pop pleasure remains to be seen, but I’d be perfectly content with consistent, buoyant albums this great every few years.
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