– by Louis Humberstone
Three, the third full length release by Phantogram, is a darker, more introspective approach for the duo, which challenges the confines of genre and marks a growth that has placed them as interesting to follow in the 21st century.
The New York bred duo, comprising of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, have made Three on the back of success which has seen them globetrotting on a series of live shows as well as sampling credits on tracks by Kanye West, A$AP Rocky and The Game.
Three begins with “Funeral Pyre”, an unsettling and swelling piece which sets the tone for the remainder of the album. Lyrically, with its exploration of death and afterlife, the morbidity of “Funeral Pyre” begins themes which Phantogram seem ready to convey. The growing textures and minimalist lyrics recall Radiohead, whilst also leaving the listener feeling uncomfortable yet intrigued.
Hit single “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” arrives like a punch in the gut. Its quick, swaggering drums and sickening instrumentation perfectly compliment the fast paced stream-of-conscience vocal attack. Lines like “Running through emergency rooms/ Spinning wheels and ceiling fans” seem to be at one with the tempo of the music. Although the pre-chorus slows things down, with a more Pop texture, the chorus rips us back into the dark, tormenting world of the song.
With a handful of live dates across the country in the summer, including Southbound, Phantogram can expect to connect with audiences as their music induces emotions and their choruses spring as cries for the modern generation.
Nowhere is this more evident than in “Calling All” an aggressive and rhythmic track featuring the raspy vocals of Barthel. With a powerful and confronting refrain of “We’ve all got a little bit of ho in us”, “Calling All” shows that Phantogram aren’t a band to hold back, but have the maturity to snap into a mindset. The delivery makes the perspective of the track seem nonchalant and aggressive, but also relevant and heavy.
The organic and lo-fi sound of “Answer” makes it stand out as possibly the best track on the album. An emotional piano line begins the track, cutting in and out with the disruption of swelling studio tricks. The line “Been up until dawn and all my heroes are gone, babe/ But I know they’re out there” has such an emotional inflection and relevance to 2016 that it really cuts through. People come and go, but in music, the bands that we love are the timeless ones, the ones that could mean something. Phantogram aren’t arrogantly putting themselves on par with their heroes, just hurting like everybody else and using their music to examine this.
On Three, Phantogram show that they can develop, getting deeper and darker, and sounding noticeably different from the band that made Eyelid Movies six years ago. Three is meant to challenge us, meant to surprise us, and make us think. On every one of these, it delivers as an introspective and class release by a growing act.