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For those who don't know, Phantogram are an electronic indie rock duo who've been around since 2007. February 18 marks the release of their sophomore LP, Voices, coming four years after their first effort Eyelid Movies.
There have been a few EPs to tide over fans who couldn't stand that long wait, but it's good to have some more content from a band that's proven themselves to be consistently creative and interesting so far.
With Voices, Phantogram proves that they're moving forward, even if they're not venturing into uncharted territories. They keep their signature sound, which is a bit difficult to pin down for those who haven't listened to them. The members themselves have described it as "street beat, synth pop" music with "lots of rhythms, swirling guitars, spacey keyboards, echoes, [and] airy vocals."
This album finds them experimenting with the electronic noises that make up their sound, unafraid to play with dissonant noise every now and then, like on "Blackout Days," while still keeping the fundamental prettiness of their music that makes them more accessible. This means they sacrifice a tiny bit of their pop sensibility, but they're pushing themselves, and that's a good sign for their future.
The best tracks include "Bill Murray," "Fall In Love" and "Bad Dreams." Those three tracks in particular blew me away. But the album isn't without its hiccups.
Tracks like "Howling at the Moon" or album closer "My Only Friend" are low points, primarily because they don't have the strong melodies that sustain the other tracks, relying on plodding electronic beats alone. When member Josh Carter takes his turn singing, the songs lose one of their greatest assets, which is keyboardist Sarah Barthel's voice. It's so pretty, full of pathos and sadness. Her voice, to me, anchors their sound to pretty melody and emotion.
The new Phantogram album, despite its flaws, should suck repeat listeners in and arouse the interest of anyone who happens upon this still seldom-known group. They're a bit of an oddity, lying somewhere between electronic and indie pop, but they've carved out a niche for themselves and Voices proves they're more than comfortable there, exploring their electronic sound-scapes and downbeat melodies.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.