By Melissa Maerz
May 14, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT



Until recently, Phoenix were the French indie band that was meant to be enjoyed in a very French way, their airy-cool soft rock aimed at pastel-jeaned crowds doing a little noncommittal nod-your-head dance, possibly while dangling a Gauloises cigarette from their lips. But with 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the group went all-in on upbeat Europop choruses and yell-it-from-the-rooftops tributes to new love, earning listeners’ truly unironic adoration — and a Grammy. On Bankrupt! they sound like they’ve officially quit trying to appeal to hipsters, as singer Thomas Mars rants about young people who are ”sad and underweight” or ”just tryin’ to be cool.” Like his wife, Sofia Coppola, who spoofed the terrible ennui of the rich and famous in her 2010 movie Somewhere, Mars seems to be grappling with finding mainstream success at a time when, as he sings, ”idols are boredom to everyone.” But if he’s uneasy being popular, these chic, commercial songs aren’t going to help: The shimmery synths of ”The Real Thing” are ready-made for a Citibank ad. Even the artier touches (the ”China Girl”-style intro on ”Entertainment”; the title track’s Pink Floyd-y breakdown) could’ve been stolen from a great ’80s teen-movie soundtrack. Best of all is ”S.O.S. in Bel Air,” a deceptively giddy song about the loneliness of guest-list-only parties. ”Alone, alone, alone!” Mars sighs. And you can just imagine a stadium full of kids shouting the line back to him, alone together. B+

Best Track
”S.O.S in Bel Air” Sunny yacht-party pop, just in time for summer
”The Real Thing” A Eurodisco rocker


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