Album Review: Phantogram – Voices
Phantogram‘s Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter famously dubbed their dream-pop/hip-hop fusion “street beat,” which makes it hard to believe that they record their music in a barn in upstate, rural New York. After their first LP, Eyelid Movies, they dodged the sophomore slump bullet with their major label debut, Voices, and easily managed to go above and beyond what was expected of them. Voices was recorded in Los Angeles with P!nk/Kings of Leon producer John Hill. After seven years together, they’ve clearly gotten more comfortable with one another, showcasing their vocal and songwriting abilities layered by their instrumental talent.
The insomniac in me enjoys the nocturnal ambiance with gritty edges that Phantogram displays throughout this LP. This album is my current nighttime go-to playlist, full of buzzing synths, scattered beats, warped samples, and weighty falsettos. Voices opens with “Ever had the feeling that you’ve constantly been dreaming? This is life.” setting up the darkness this album exudes with a diverse array of sounds behind a persistent groove. “Nothing But Trouble” reminds me of the sounds we’re accustomed to from Eyelid Movies, specifically my favorite song, “Mouthful of Diamonds.” The bass-laden, down-tempo tracks create a cohesive collection of darkness you can dance do.
The second half is unlike the first. “Bill Murray”‘s haunted, mellow tone conveys the lonesome, melancholy lyrics quite well: “Am I wanted inside? / Say Goodbye, do you feel liked? / Wave Goodbye, and your heart’s not in line.” While this album isn’t for the jubilant, the introspective lyrics mixed well with their diverse sound palette creates a solid electronic pop LP. Layer upon layer of heavily edited beats, “Celebrating Nothing” follows suit with Phantogram’s dark vibe, “Give me a reason to stay alive, I’ve got the feeling we’re gonna die.”
Phantogram has proved themselves to be more than just another electronic band; they’ve evolved. They made sure, after signing with a major label, to not lose themselves in some else’s fantasy. There is a fantastic equilibrium between Barthel and Carter that pulls each of their talents to the forefront. Over the years between albums they have made collaborations with the Flaming Lips and Big Boi, which exponentially helped Phantogram’s fanbase. I see these guys taking off into the night sky with ease.
Press play, turn out the lights, and lay down; the album will take you where you need to go.