October 24, 2016 Phantogram – Three (Album Review)
Formed in 2007, in Greenwich, New York, by Josh Carter (vocals, guitars) and Sarah Barthel (vocals, keyboards), Phantogram is an extraordinary young group with a dream-like sound. With three studio albums to their credit – 2010’s Dreampop-sounding debut, Eyelid Movies; 2014’s Shoegaze-laced, Synthpop-dominated Voices; now in 2016, they return with their experimental, Cinematic-oriented, and Trip-Hop-infused offering, Three.
Released on October 7, 2016, Phantogram’s Three opens with the sparse, fuzz-drenched, and slow tempo of “Funeral Pyre.” The pace shifts a gear higher as “Same Old Blues” enters with its Electronic/Rave-inspired choppy rhythm, taking the listener to the psychedelic-colored dance floor. The ensuing “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” carries a similar Electro Dance beat; though, its highlight is certainly its catchy chorus and compelling lyrics. Then there is the melodramatic flare of “Cruel World,” whose combination of fuzziness and mellifluousness will remind the initiated of similar sweet-sour sonic tendencies of the likes of Garbage (“Stupid Girl”), Tori Amos (“Cornflake Girl”), Veruca Salt (“Volcano Girls”), and Republica (“Ready to Go”).
The mid-album “Barking Dog” is certainly an icebreaker and mood shifter with its ubiquitous arpeggiated string orchestration that effectively complements male Vocalist Carter’s soaring and reverberating laments. “You’re Mine” stands out with the female-male vocal interplay between Barthel and Carter augmented with the angular guitar rhythm, machine gun drum beats, and piercing synth melodies. Phantogram relaxes the ambience for a bit with the piano-led slow song “Answer,” which is also not devoid of quirkiness with its syncopated rhythm.
Then there is electric guitar heavy, “Run, Run Blood” which makes this track definitely the album’s Rock moment; one can almost hear faint echoes of the Industrial sensibilities of the likes of Nine Inch Nails (“Head like a Hole”), Ministry (“Psalm 69”), and even a hint of Stoner Thrash as in some of the music of Slayer (“South of Heaven”). The piano-led and soulfully sung ballad “Destroyer” befits its being the penultimate track as it starts on a somber note and then explodes into fuzzy shards of sentiments. Finally, Three closes with a bang, with the Hip-Hop-inspired musicality and vocal approach of “Calling All,” but whose melodic quality still connects it to the overall theme of the album.
Phantogram’s music is certainly interesting and may be regarded as a fresh offering to music enthusiasts. Its diversity and unpredictability has the power to keep its listeners yearning for more sonic surprises. Phantogram stands apart from many of its Synthpop-inspired contemporaries primarily because of its willingness to take advantage of a wider array of musical styles. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Three 4 out of 5 stars.