French rock-pop-electronica outfit Phoenix have today released Winter Solstice, the latest cut from their upcoming seventh studio album Alpha Zulu, which drops on 4th November via Loyaute/Glassnote Records. The song might just be the band’s most moody, a melancholic rumination that gradually pulses from dark into light. It is the band’s only song that wasn’t composed together in the studio, instead created in two different continents for the first time in the band’s history. The track was built out of a long loop that the band’s members – Lauren Brancowitz, Christian Mazzalai, and Deck D’Arcy – sent to front man Thomas Mars, asking him to record a stream of consciousness, a song that loosely alludes to Phoenix classics like Love Like A Sunset Pt. 1 and 2 and Bankrupt, but sounds like something new entirely.
In conjunction with the release, the band shared a music video directed by prior Ti Amo collaborator Warren Fu, who drew on the band’s German Expressionist movie influences. If Winter Solstice looks to fill the void that was created by the distance of the pandemic, the video faces the void head on.
Check out the Warren Fu-directed video for Winter Solstice below:
Phoenix recently performed the album’s title track and latest single Tonight featuring Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig on Later… with Jools Holland.
Produced by the band themselves, and recorded in Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs, which sits in the Palais du Louvre, Alpha Zulu is everything Phoenix does best: effortlessly catchy melodies married with always-innovative production, resulting in what is destined to be one of 2022’s albums of the year. Indeed, Alpha Zulu – the band’s first album since 2017’s critically acclaimed record Ti Amo – is an immediate reminder of what has made Phoenix one of the most beloved artists of the last two decades, reinforcing the band’s enduring – and continued – influence on pop culture.
There’s a new looseness here for Phoenix, a clash of emotions, styles and eras borne from the mad stylistic incubator that is the Musée des Arts Décoratifs: The Only One, with its blissful rain-drop percussion, clashes against the pummelling, almost techno-strafed All Eyes on Me, there’s a focus on “negative space” – a concept echoed in the white walls around the museum’s exhibits – and a sense of pure romance, albeit tinged with a mature understanding of how precious that feeling becomes with age. My Elixir, a lonely, distant song with a sweetly rinky-dink beat that has the air of the karaoke sung in an empty bar. “Tell me anywhere is home,” Thomas pleads in the song: “Can we go home?” He was thinking about how on Ti Amo, Phoenix finally said “I love you” – “but in a different language”, he admits. Now living in an increasingly apocalyptic-seeming US, the situation called for directness. It was then that Thomas wrote Winter Solstice.
Working at the Musée brought Phoenix full circle, in a way. As kids growing up in Versailles, they had rebelled against the oppressive French classicism they grew up around – the idea that culture belonged in a museum. And yet, here were four of France’s most important cultural ambassadors, making their next work in such a space. It worked perfectly: away from the exhibits at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, their studio became a holding space for a jumble of works: Dalí next to Medieval pieces and Lalanne sculptures. “The backstage of the museum is like a mashup,” says Deck. “It’s very pop in a way – like how we make music.”
Phoenix kick off their European tour in support of Alpha Zulu with a return to London’s Brixton Academy this November.
16 – London, UK – Brixton Academy
18 – Milan, IT – Alcatraz Club
20 – Berlin, DE – Columbiahalle
22 – Brussels, BE – Ancienne Belgique
23 – Brussels, BE – Ancienne Belgique
25 – Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso
26 – Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso
28 – Paris, FR – Olympia
29 – Paris, FR – Olympia
Photography by Kalpesh Patel