Phoenix singer Thomas Mars called during a break from the band's world tour to tell us about five songs he loves. "I didn't really prepare anything," he admitted, "but I'll improvise."
The French crew's excellent fifth LP, Bankrupt!, is in stores now. Check out Mars' picks and listen to his playlist below:
Prince, "Raspberry Beret"
"To me, this sounds like it could be the genesis of all dance music today. Right from the start, it's one of my favorite openings. When you hear the kick drum and the snare, they sound better than any drum machine today. I've always been a huge Prince fan, and to me, this record [Around the World in a Day] is incredibly underrated. It's a masterpiece, and I don't think it's recognized as a masterpiece."
Lou Reed, "Street Hassle"
"This is one of my favorite all-time songs. It's almost like Proust's madeleine to me: It has that effect that each time I hear it, it brings back memories and transcends wherever I am, whatever thing I'm doing. And it's full of mystery – I don't really understand how you could sit down and write that song. It's almost like a rock version of Ravel's 'Bolero,' you know? It's a never-ending source of inspiration."
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, "Ffunny Ffriends"
"When I first heard this, I thought it was a good song. Then I realized it's a great song. It's perfectly shaped. I never like covering songs, but this one I would especially dislike, because I think you'd totally ruin it, you know? Songs that are this perfectly done, you don't need to touch. We played this a lot before going onstage on our tour this year."
Kindness, "Swingin' Party"
"Again, I hate covers. I never know why they exist. But this is the counter-example. It's a Replacements cover, and it's such a surprise. It was produced by Philippe Zdar, who produces a lot of our records. The first time I heard it, it was probably the best conditions: I was in a studio at night with a giant soundboard. It felt like I was in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was incredible."
Alain Bashung, "Bijou, Bijou"
"This is a morning song for me. I play it at breakfast when I'm feeling nostalgic. It's one of the most French songs ever. The slang he uses is a slang that I never really used – it's the slang of my parents, and somehow it's also the slang of the kids today. So when I hear him talk, I hear my parents' generation and, at the same time, I hear kids today. It's a nice feeling."