By: Tyler Nyquvest –
Fan or not, odds are that you’ve heard electronic duo Phantogram somewhere before. Whether that be in one of your favourite TV Shows, your favourite film, or perhaps between whistles at a hockey game. The Greenwich, New York-based band has been kicking around since 2007 and has stacked up a fairly impressive list of accomplishments since then, especially for only having released two studio albums.
Phantogram has been somewhat typecast as soundtrack fillers which, unfortunately, has become one of their main dilemmas. The duo has immense talent and their music is very much respected, however, the qualm with Phantogram is that their studio music just isn’t exhilerating enough to stand out from the overabundance of acts similar to their own sound. The duo are more recognized as background music even though their live performances are charged. The bottom line is Phantogram is still searching for that one hit to catapult them to main stage stardom.
Enter Three, Phantogram’s third studio album and thus another attempt at finding that sweet stunner that will land them next level fame. Phantogram is amicably consistent; there is no denying that. However, Three doesn’t seem to stand out anymore than their past work. This is the band you want to make it – they are humble, talented and hard working – yet, for some reason, their plane just won’t leave ground. Nevertheless, there are some great songs here that will almost assuredly appear somewhere in the pop culture vein.
“Cruel World” is cooly melancholic and addictive, certainly parallel with the type of synth-pop sounds you expected from the pairing. Luring you in with lead singer Sarah Barthel’s tempting call and a gentle piano melody before breaking into a highly contrasting chorus with a blues tinge, this is one of those Phantogram specials that easily seeps into your subconscious.
“You’re Mine” is a fun, playful back-and-forth between here sassy Barthel and a self-assured Josh Carter (vocals/guitar), who is more of an added compliment to the song than a stand out vocal performance. Barthel makes up for this though, as one of her most alluring traits is her ability to transition from sultry pop sweetheart to pushy punk rocker. She is admirably confrontational, an aggressor but also joys in showing brief glimpses of that sensitive corner of her heart.
Finally, “Answer” is a refreshingly unbalanced love song that still resounds with a meticulous harmony. It screams lovers quarrel on the CW or a like-minded network, an anthem for the heartbroken millennial. It’s hard to know whether Phantogram is aware of how soundtrack-worthy their material is but if they are looking for TV play they certainly know how to get it. Regardless, this song is an album highlight, shining for its elegant simplicity and unornamented yet effective lyricism.
It remains that Phantogram still doesn’t quite break the seal with Three. While it is listenable, exciting isn’t the first word one conjures to describe it. Nevertheless, one cannot denounce this group: their music is easily enjoyable, fits into a slew of circumstances, and can delight even the most casual of music fans. The combination does work and, what’s more, the combination is working even better as they mature as artists. Phantogram is headlining larger shows, collaborating with massively famous artists and growing their reputation as consistent performers. Slow and steady doesn’t always win the music race but for this skillful coupling, it doesn’t seem to hurt.
Phantogram will release Three on 10/7 via Republic Records.
Essential Tracks: “Cruel World”, “You’re Mine”, and “Answer”