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Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That LP
After avoiding the sophomore slump with relative ease, Phoenix return with their third release stripped of the post-disco house sound that helped to define them, focusing more on the songwriting side of things than any sort of dancefloor-focused groove. In fact, it takes until the fourth song, "Long Distance Call," for anything resembling a dancefloor beat to appear, and when it does it feels like an epilogue to the wonderful "If I Ever Feel Better" off the group's debut record. The band has definitely learned a thing or two through its evolution, placing more of an emphasis on guitar than before (Laurent Brancowitz and Christian Mazzalai sound as if they've been in the woodshed studying the chops of Johnny Marr and the twin-guitar attack of the Strokes' last few records), and their performances sound more confident than ever. Gone are the sluggish country-infused downtempo numbers, replaced with a more even-keeled track sequencing and tempo throughout -- almost as if they've been able to focus on the things that make the band so engaging to begin with, monopolize on them, and move forward in a refreshing and vibrant direction.