The Renaissance of A Bygone Era | “Tonight” by Phoenix feat. Ezra Koenig


Marion Reilly, Writer/Volunteer

I don’t remember exactly how I found the French pop rock band Phoenix, but I think it had something to do with invading my parents’ iTunes account, aimlessly scrolling through and adding songs to my blue iPod Nano indiscriminately. “1901,” off their 2009 album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, was my favorite song of theirs by far, and I used to listen to it religiously — before I entered middle school and forgot it existed. 

A few months back, however, I rediscovered Phoenix, and realized that I still really like them; indie pop is one of my favorite genres, and this band’s unique sound, mixing indie rock and synth-pop, does not disappoint. On Nov. 4, they released a brand new record, Alpha Zulu, their seventh studio album. “Tonight,” in collaboration with Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, is my favorite off the album, and perhaps the most representative of the band’s growth while simultaneously nodding to their past.

Alpha Zulu is the combination of Phoenix’s tried-and-true style and their newer, more exploratory sound. The band represents a moment in time and music that has passed; many would say that they’re past their prime. However, this band is bringing about their own renaissance, and the Botticelli painting depicted on the album cover reflects that. Conceived during the COVID-19 pandemic, the album was recorded within the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, a branch of the Louvre in Paris, and this recording location inspired much of the album. In addition, the French quartet from Versailles collaborated with one member of Daft Punk, Thomas Bangalter, in order to incorporate that nostalgic, 2000s electro-pop feeling into their more indie energy on Alpha Zulu.

“Tonight,” Phoenix’s first ever song to feature guest vocals, invokes a feeling of nostalgia, mixing a melancholic vibe with their peppy, upbeat bassline. The whole song seems like an homage to years past — both Phoenix and Vampire Weekend flourished in the late 2000s and early 2010s, and the song seems to carry that energy to the present day. With a striking percussion line, bouncy vocals and their signature, bright guitar pop, it doesn’t sound dated, but instead seems like a refreshing take on a reliable formula. The poetic lyrics hint at a past relationship, going back and forth about mistakes and desires. In the song, Ezra Koenig and Phoenix’s lead singer Thomas Mars reminisce on the past, but dismiss it for new beginnings:

“I’ve played all the games /

And lost almost everything /

Now I talk to myself and it’s quite surprisin’ /

Roll with me.”

Despite the band forming over two decades ago in 1995, Phoenix still has it. Their music is all about inspiring a vibrant atmosphere — something you can vibe to in any situation. Phoenix manage to stick to their signature style while adapting to the ever-changing state of the music world, truly creating their own renaissance.