This ‘Phoenix Foundation’ article was written by Jen Taylor, a GIGsoup contributor
There is a mood of insight and reflection mixed up in the catchy nature of the latest album from New Zealand band The Phoenix Foundation. And they’ve earned the right to be introspective, with ‘Give Up Your Dreams’ being their sixth album, and years spent being an integral part of the New Zealand music scene.
The album takes you through a variety of emotions, with a rollercoaster of feeling optimistic, pessimistic, hopeful and perhaps sometimes cynical. But the Phoenix Foundation have a wonderful way of being able to deal with various topics, whether light-hearted or serious, in a way that doesn’t make you feel too down, just occasionally contemplative.
The album starts with a look at the various things people think might fix society, whether it’s money or spirituality, or perhaps it’s best just to be blissfully ignorant. The opening track Mountain cleverly prepares the listener for some thoughtful tracks that will follow.
However, immediately following this, the album takes a turn back into the poppy, light-hearted and quirky type of song that Phoenix Foundation are so often known for, with Bob Lennon John Dylan. It’s a foot-tapping, head bopping guaranteed hit.
To throw a third style into the mix, Playing Dead is an almost frantic, ever-moving song that makes you think you’re heading somewhere purposefully and quickly. It has the feeling of a spiritual chant, though the electronic backing almost makes you feel like you’re playing a level in a video game.
The variation amongst these songs shows how versatile the band is and how skilled they are at putting an album together; in fact this could be considered their most accomplished release so far. For new listeners of The Phoenix Foundation, this is likely to be a very different experience. They have a sound that is uniquely theirs, but also distinctly ‘New Zealand’. This album is very accessible and would work well as a good introduction into their music, but will also appeal to long-time fans who will be able to spot the humour (like the song Celestial Bodies which borders on silliness).
Reflecting the album title, the track Give Up Your Dreams is likely to be potentially heartbreaking to fans as they wonder whether it means that The Phoenix Foundation have decided to give up on their dreams of music after all these years. But to dispel any fears, it specifies to ‘get up and walk out of this catastrophic career for a moment’ only. It is intended as an uplifting reminder that striving for dreams can make the very things we once loved a chore, and to be wary of losing yourself in ambition. It is an interestingly light-hearted song that looks into the struggles that musicians are often faced with as they put their whole heart and soul into such a difficult industry. Also worth noting – this song has been remixed by none other than genius Neil Finn, which is an interesting take on the song, portraying it in more of a dream-type state.
The album is full of surprises, as we have come to expect from The Phoenix Foundation. There are some interesting features such as electronic vocal harmonies, dreamy guitar and instrumentals, unexpected timings, clever instrumentation and general electropop-meets-rock magnificence! Every song showcases high quality writing and arrangement and there are no songs that feel like they could be skipped in the name of getting to the next one quicker, they are all equally as enjoyable.
‘Give Up Your Dreams’ is out now on Memphis Industries. The full tracklisting for the album is…