As groups like Daft Punk, Air, and M83 have shown, French musicians have developed a knack for infusing gooey production warmth into genres ranging from deep house to downtempo to distortion-drenched shoegazer crunch. Now a new-ish French band has thrown its hat into the ring: Phoenix, which blends soul, house, rock, and ... country into a rich, cohesive sound. The Parisian quartet hit the scene with 2000's United, featuring the sultry, Jamiroquai-esque shuffle "If I Ever Feel Better," a tune that treated dance-floor devotees and indie rockers alike to a molten mix of beats, guitars, and Thomas Mars' Cheshire cat vocals, as suited to buttery R&B as they are to jittery indie-pop. Alphabetical, the group's sophomore release, is uneven and a little more poppy (i.e., disposable) than United, but jams like "Everything Is Everything" and "Holdin' On Together" lend the album a few delectable moments. Phoenix makes its San Francisco debut on Thursday, Dec. 9, at "popscene" at 330 Ritch; call 541-9574 or go to www.popscene-sf.com for more info.
-- Garrett Kamps
Guitarist/vocalist Ralph Spight and bassist Larry Boothroyd founded Victims Family back in 1984 when they were just a couple of scrawny Santa Rosa teenagers in search of a kick-ass drummer. Combining the lyrical venom of Jello Biafra and the muscular punk virtuosity of No Means No, Victims Family created a spastic and compellingly ferocious stew of hardcore, jazz, noise, and math rock through a string of brilliant albums, drummer changes, and breakups. This weekend, Spight and Boothroyd take a comprehensive look at their collective past, present, and future with the "Victims Family 20th Anniversary Doo." In addition to early sets by current projects the Freak Accident (Spight's new warped pop outfit) and Meow Meow & the Meow Meows (a raucous duo featuring bassist/singer Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough and Boothroyd on drums), offshoot bands Saturn's Flea Collar and the Hellworms will take the stage leading up to a momentous reunion with mainstay Victims Family drummer Tim Solyan on Sunday, Dec. 12, at the Bottom of the Hill; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com.
-- Dave Pehling