Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter are the talented duo that make up Phantogram. Appropriately titled, Three is their third studio album to be released. Since the success of their breakthrough second album, Voices, the pair have been working the circuit with some notable names in the game; opening for Alt-J at Madison Square Garden, touring with Muse and television appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. This means they’ve drummed up a whole lot of expectation for this release, and you won’t be disappointed.
With apparent influences by electronica royalty like Portishead, Radiohead, Aphex Twin, there is a true sense of artistry in their music. There is a real craft of elements in the way they use dynamics and texture to build up intensity as evident in the opening track of the album, Funeral Pyre.
The first single, You Don’t Get Me High Anymore, is certainly a crowd pleaser. It opens with a driving gritty section- this locks you in- it is then contrasted by the more ethereal pre-chorus. The music supports the meaning of the lyrics playing on the relationship between sobriety/reality and intoxication/release.
Cruel World is a personal favourite and demonstrates Phantogram’s skill in production as they create a a groove by editing a soulful sample. The interplay of rhythm, samples, anthemic vocal line and timbre is notable- I especially enjoyed the guitar entering mid-way through the song playing a single harmonically strategic note at the time. It is an emotive track.
Barking Dog, unexpectedly and abruptly begins with a string section which is a refreshing sound included half way through the album. The string instrumentation is reminiscent of Recomposed by Max Richter. Answer definitely has a bit of a Serge Gainsbourg touch in the way Josh sings the paced lyrics in his chesty lower register.
Three by Phantogram offers a listener all sorts of shades of textures, sounds and feels to engage your ears and self, escaping from reality for just a bit. Phantogram are the voice of electro-cool.