Phantogram - Voices [Album Review]
In the age of immediate access to music (thanks to the Internet) Phantogram, who are back with their second LP, Voices, are a bit of an anomaly. The Greenwich, New York based duo, made up of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, didn't come out of nowhere to take the internet by storm, only to be forgotten within a year. Instead, they have steadily increased their presence over the last decide, especially in the last 5 years. Now, with sell-out shows are bigger and bigger venues not to mention performing on stage with both Big Boi and The Flaming Lips, the duo have finally released their sophomore album. Voices, the followup to 2009's Eyelid Movies, continues their hypnotic blend of rock and electronic music to create an album that is unlike anything I've come across recently. With more down-tempo and bass-heavy tracks, Voices is darker than their previous releases and a little less varied. This may come off as a negative to some fans, but for me it shows more maturity in their sound.
The "darkness" of the album extends beyond the production and instrumentation. Grim lyrics like "If I could paint the sky, would all the stars would shine in bloody red" ("Black Out Days"), "Give me a reason to stay alive, I've got a feeling we’re gonna die" ("Celebrating Nothing"), and "your eyes bleed when you see, cause nothing works inside" ("Bill Murray") add to the dark feel of the album. The vocals of Barathel and Carter in Voices are definitely the major focus - something that wasn't seen in their earlier work and I for one am enjoying it.
All this is not to say that this is a depressing album, as it is anything but. With songs like "Fall in Love", this album, even with its darker tones, shows that Phantogram can still make some serious dance-worthy tracks as well. These aren't the rock party-worthy jams that people may recognize from previous releases, but they will still get you moving.
I will be the first to admit that the sounds of Voices can become a bit tiring, especially by the time you reach the last song, "My Only Friend" (one of the lightest tracks on the album). While the lack of variety as heard on Phantogram's other releases may get a bit repetitive, it does demonstrate the band's strengths - in this case their ability to create hypnotic and cleansing music that gets into the deepest parts of your conscience. While the album as a whole may get tiresome, pick any song off it at random and you will be in for an incredible experience.
Beyond everything, this album screams for the night. The tones, song names, lyrics, and feel of Voices is like something an insomniac would cling to - an album to listen to when it's dark out and you need something to give you an edge or buzz. This album won't get the same acclaim of 2013 breakout artists like CHVRCHES, Haim, or Lorde, but frankly as a sophomore release they couldn't have done a better job.