An Organized Array of Sounds
Keeping a steady musical streak since 2007, the New York originated duo Phantogram is out of the studio with their third album, Three (quite a straightforward and appropriate album title). Three brings to the table a cheese plate of sounds—there’s everything from smooth camembert to aged cheddar—figuratively, of course. With an ample diversity of sounds, the pair somehow has somehow managed to piece together and organize their musical chaos into this 10-track album. Therefore it makes it hard to pinpoint what genre to label the album or even point fingers to similarities with other artists when considering Three.
The pair had a rough start to 2016 with female vocalist Sarah Barthel’s older sister taking her own life, which has hit the band hard, as one can imagine. With a total of 10-tracks, Three starts off with an eerie yet contemporary number titled “Funeral Pyre.” Perhaps this emotional incident may have had some influence in the making of this album. Its echoing vocals in the beginning set the tone for the dark and haunting melody to follow.
“Same Old Blues” picks up the tempo with stomping beats and chorus singing accompanying the vocals of Sarah Barthel. It emotionally expresses the feeling of being stuck in limbo with nowhere to go and nowhere to hide, while musically the song has a Fitz And The Tantrums vibe. Subtle rock number, “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore,” could be applied to the sizzled out post-honeymoon phase that happens to all relationships. As all good things come to an end, the lyrics mention how it “use to take one, now it takes four” to get the lovestruck fire going again.
Starting off with a piano-chord intro, “Cruel World” produces a very Melanie Martinez vibe of cute and dark with the contrasting piano and dark voice effects. Although every track is very distinct, changing up styles in particular is “Barking Dog,” where violin strings accompany Josh Carter’s vocals. It would have been nice and more interesting to see more variety in the song itself, as the string accompaniment follows one pattern.
“Answer” is a track with Passion Pit and Postal Service written all over it, being a mellow electronic-pop number. The dark and heavy drumming of “Destroyer” is reminiscent Lana Del Ray and Marina And The Diamonds. Introducing another up-tempo new style to the album is “Calling,” which has a little hint of Elliphant in both its beats and carefree lyrics. The repeated lyric “we all got a little bit of ho in us,” has to be the biggest take-away from the track.
It’s easy to say Phantogram is similar to CHVRCHES or Purity Ring, but Three has proven that Phantogram has a repertoire of sound and is willing to take risks by experimenting wildly with their style. Hopefully this album will bring the duo out of the shadows and into the mainstream spotlight. They have opened and toured for a number of big names including M83, the xx, Alt-J, Ra Ra Riot and even Muse. As they are on tour at the moment, it will be nice to see their name grow and to hear what kind of music they have in store for the next album.