December 2, 2014 Madi Diaz – Phantom (Album Review)
The idea of pop music is much broader than the bass drops and auto-tune you hear on the radio. Synth is more than just a way to drive instrumentals, and falsetto vocals are more than just a way to fake the high notes. Elements like these can create intense moods and unforgettable pop moments. American singer-songwriter Madi Diaz’s fourth studio album Phantom shows a lot of this potential. She reaches for art in the mainstream styles that the music world indulges in today and ultimately creates something unique. Marking her first release with Nettwerk Productions not all of the points on this album are as sharp as they could be. Diaz captures the intricacy of pop music, but only begins to dissect the creativity behind it.
Phantom has an incredible start. The airy pop quality of Diaz flows through the two opening tracks without any doubt. The adventurous tone that the choruses release sparks an interest in listeners while the chilling synth effects mystify the liberating sounds. Stellar opener “Tomorrow” enriches these qualities to empower lyrics like “Oh, we’ll never look back,” putting listeners in a dreamy state of mind. “Stay Together” follows with the same free-spirited stamina and exhilarating motion.
While the refrains make a lot of the songs on Phantom, they unfortunately break a few. Tracks that were on their way to something great fall behind with dull vocals, empty rhythms, and elementary structures. “Mess” has a droning beat that is not recovered by any hooks, leading the anticipation of excitement to an unfortunate let down. “Ghost Rider” also sounds like it can be a strong track, but the irritating style of the refrain melody subdues its potential. A possibly critic is Diaz shows on these tracks is the lack of that one ‘wow factor.’ Whether it is a climax of instrumentals, a hook, or a guitar riff, something more is needed to make these songs shine.
Diaz is not always shooting for the stars on this record, but when she does, she brings back the sun. The refrains of Phantom seem to be her saving grace. Some of the odd elements that are introduced in the verses, like the staccato beats of “Dancing In The Dark,” flow fluently into a much more developed chorus. Even in “Picture,” Diaz’s vocals are solidified as the song reaches its climax, using the building intensity of the song to trigger goose bumps. Whenever Diaz is consistent with her rhythm, like in the natural and atmospheric flow of “The First Time,” the tracks maintain the listener’s attention.
Phantom is certainly a defining pop album for Madi Diaz’s career. She gives her sound a unique identity, although she is still working to perfect it. There are plenty of high points to indulge in throughout Phantom which is overall a very enjoyable listen. Nevertheless, the radio needs more pop artists like her gracing the airwaves. CrypticRock gives this album 3.5 out of 5 stars.