Having followed Phoenix's discography along with Air, Tahiti 80, Zoot Woman, and a long list of other French bands that I found from links that traced back to Daft Punk, I suddenly find them in a class higher above -- and all their own -- compared to many of their ilk.
This is an amazing album, from start to finish. Previous releases "United" and "Alphabetical" were fantasic albums, too, but their ambition outweighed their purpose. That sounds like it might be a good thing, and in many ways it was, but the frailty of "their sound" meant that the textures were always shifting, different from song to song, in a way that kept them from feeling whole.
With "It's Never Been Like That" Phoenix have found their legs to stand on, and developed a sound that manages to evoke all that they've ever been, but at the same time remain completely themselves. This isn't mood music, or something to leave in the background. This is joyous, celebratory, "sing along with your window rolled down" driving music.
This album is rock and pop, get up and dance, sit down and nod. It's everything music should be, played with breathless enthusiasm, yet somehow seeming effortless. Though I risk over-selling it to the point of disappointment, I'm willing to take that risk. These songs will plant their hooks into your brain, and you won't want them to leave.
+ Consolation Prizes
+ Courtesy Laughs
+ Sometimes In The Fall