December 4, 2014 Phantogram – Voices (Album Review)
The sexy and sleek duo from New York, Sarah Barthel (keyboard and vocals) and Josh Carter (guitar and vocals), known as Phantogram have turned from an Indie-Rock/R&B group into a full-fledged Electronic Synth Rock overnight sensation releasing their newest album, Voices (2014). Distinguishing them from other Synth-Rock Pop bands such as Sleigh Bells, Cults, and Purity Ring, to name a few, Phantogram has their own unique sound of Trip-Hop flare blended with Electropop infused beats. Since their inception in 2007, the duo has kept audiences in touch with a series of well-received EPs and collaborations including working with the likes of Big Boi from OutKast on three songs (“Objectum Sexuality,” “CPU,” and “Lines”) on his late 2012 album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. Audiences also witnessed Barthel’s amazing onstage cameo “You Lust” with the Flaming Lips last year from their 2013 album The Terror. Altogether, Phantogram has maintained a steady presence on tour, playing major summer festivals and headlining their own international tour.
Suffice it to say, Phantogram’s newest album, Voices, came onto the scene marked as one of the year’s most foreseen albums. With the thumping and superbly jolting opening punches of singles “Nothing But Trouble” and “Black Out Days,” Barthel knocks out her soaring vocals singing stronger than ever, making you want to move to her vibrational harmonious singing. Seeing her live in concert will surely give listeners a surge of energetic pulses radiating through their veins as the duo’s expanded range of sensual and seductive songs gives the record a raw and real feeling. Barthel turns up the notch and dominates as her partner in crime Carter, although not a strong-showy vocalist, has an all-encompassing guitar sound and is the hallmark of Phantogram. The highlight of Voices is the eccentric celebration melody of single “Fall in Love,” which is constructed around a tale of two sad lovers’ failed expectations at love as the verses burns a memory of an insidious tone with Barthel’s voice reaching out, “The night has swallowed my soul..Could it be that I fell apart, it shows..” This is essentially a push and pull of a bipolar relationship coming to an end.
“Never Going Home” is one of two tracks spotlighting the vocals of Carter and supplies the record with a soft spoken and unruffled comedown from the opening rush of the Barthel-dominated album. The Carter-led song on this track starts strong and the productions becomes a little subdued and monotonous as he continues the same chorus verse “If this is love, I’m never going home” which some could arguably say is a bit redundant and starts to wear thin by the end of the song. Nonetheless, he stays firmly within his range and makes his smooth, almost pronounced lines a welcome change of pace. “Bill Murray,” another one of their more subdued songs, interestingly is not about the iconic actor, nonetheless serves as the album’s more sensitive tune. Rumor has it that Barthel and Carter would like him to appear on one of their videos…it is Bill Murray after all and maybe they will get their wish.
Voices’ entire production is fresh and Barthel’s sounds are fantastic as her voice rises and falls going from melodic whispers to unbreakable, jarring choruses. With her screeching “ey ah’s” in “Black Out Days” along with the perfect energetic beat in “Celebrating Nothing,” to ending in a fluid and harmonious balance between calming and culminating “My Only Friend,” Phantogram stands as a true talent that have complicated their sounds through the course of their mega-hyped breakout acts. Voices defines a bolder, more assertive approach, leaving the listener wanting more. CrypticRock gives this album 4.5 out of 5 stars.