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V/A - Kitsune Tabloid by Phoenix

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Artist: V/A

Album: Kitsune Tabloid by Phoenix

Label: Kitsune

Review date: May. 11, 2009

The first Kitsune Tabloid, by Berlin duo Digitalism, was a mix that used its material to justify the end product. Phoenix has used their turn at Kitsune curation to showcase their inspirations. With their hotly anticipated new album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, partly previewed to phenomenal effect on Saturday Night Live, there should be enough curiosity as to what makes these guys tick to justify this glorified mixtape. Instead of one long party set, Phoenix opt to chillax.

Every one of the 18 songs is a power hitter with a singular purpose. "Love Theme from Kiss" is the epitome of an opening instrumental track. A little over two minutes of straightforward introductory grooving, it dwells on one sublime riff and sets the tone for everything to follow. It only gets more comfortable. The one-two punch of the Red Crayola’s "Victory Garden" and The Impressions’ "I’ve Been Trying." don’t seem to have anything in common; "Victory Garden" is a pre-punk ballad that evokes an air of neo-Victorian World War II romance, while "I’ve Been Trying" takes on love troubles with classic R&B flavor. Sequenced one after the other, however, the intellectualism and stylistic verve fall away to reveal two songs that share a similarly soulful core.

This kind of smart and effortless curation permeates this Tabloid installment. Timeless hits, rarities, superstars and cult favorites are scattered from start to finish without any sense of contrivance. Elvis Costello’s beloved "Shipbuilding" shows up alongside D’Angelo’s sexed-up "Send It On." The B-side of Dennis Wilson’s first single "Lady (Falling in Love)" is exhumed, as well as Irma Thomas’s "It’s Raining," an inspired choice for an R&B star still waiting for the universal recognition she deserves. Each song is a stand-out without actually sticking out. Even the most disparate pairing, Tangerine Dream’s electronic dream ride "Love on a Real Train" and the crunchy flannel-wearing guitars of Urge Overkill’s "Stull (Part 1)," find each band at their smoothest and most thoughtful.

Phoenix describes the songs on their Tabloid as "little treasures that have had this huge impact and amazed us." The end result is an eminently accessible and listenable mix of sentimental, touching songs that are both personal and universal. Devoid of posturing or trading on obscurity, the band focuses on the type of music that inspires sharing and mixtaping in the first place. Lou Reed’s “Street Hassle” closes it out with eleven minutes of pitch-perfect pop music that proves to be as fitting a finale as Kiss’s “Theme” is an opening. Here’s to hoping all these songs have served them as well on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.

By Evan Hanlon

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