There is a sense of mystery that surrounds everything Phantogram does. It isn’t mystery for mystery’s sake; rather, it is an extension of their aesthetic, of who they are. It is as if their music lends itself to being strangely opaque.
Their sound elicits a particular mood. The balance of ethereal vocals and bold rhythms they employ evoke a feeling that is the vehicle designed to carry what they have to say. While this sound is often large and expansive, there are significant moments where they hold back, embracing the quiet.
Although there is a pop sensibility in their hooks, they are far cry from today’s typical EDM-inspired pop music. Their songs have a subtlety and nuance that, unlike most of today’s top-40 music, is rooted in substance.
Their new album, Voices, is a step further into the Phantogram looking glass. It is full of moments both bright and elated; both shadowy and dark.
Songs like the hit “Fall in Love” turn traditional pop love songs upside down. It has all the catchy accessibility that the radio popularity embraces, but none of the plastic hollowness.
Beneath the dreamy beat and hum of the instruments are dark lyrics like, “Love / It cut a hole in your eyes.” It’s this pairing of upbeat melodies and somber lyrics that make their music so sublimely complex.
There is a tenderness to some of the songs, but with all of them, the true emotion lies just below the surface. It is this underlying emotion in their music that enables them to have such incredible live performances.
Often, fans are torn between comparing live shows to studio recordings, with one usually falling short of the other. That’s not the case for Phantogram. Although there are significant differences – improvisations, alternative interpretations, and an engaging energy – the live show complements the album perfectly.
Overall, Voices embraces the natural evolution of their sound. It is a masterful leap of faith that brings into focus a sharper, more deliberately self-conscious version of what we love about Phantogram.
Title Image by Jon Karr
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