2015 was an interesting time to be a fan of They Might Be Giants. Following the revival of their Dial-A-Song service, where songs were recorded onto answering machine tapes and could be heard via a phone number, a new song was released every week throughout the year. Their two 2015 albums, the darker Glean and the children’s album Why?, collected the first two thirds of the year’s tracks. Fittingly, their latest perfectly titled album Phone Power completes the collection.
Following the previous two albums, Phone Power is set up quite as you would expect. The album’s 18 songs are almost entirely under three minutes in length, allowing for many short bursts of the oddball creativity that one comes to expect from They Might Be Giants after so many years. Given the lack of an overarching theme, they cover a lot of ground; despite opening on some quirky jazz rock with Apophenia, they quickly move to bouncy piano pop on I Love You for Psychological Reasons and eventually onto synth-centric minimal rock on Sold My Mind to the Kremlin. The trippy rock of I’ll Be Haunting You and sugary throwback rock style of Shape Shifter fill the package out nicely, but simultaneously barely scratch the surface of what they have to offer stylistically.
Perhaps in order to solidify this project’s place as a gift to fans, a studio version of their popular cover of Destiny’s Child’s Bills, Bills, Bills also finds its place here; turning the R&B pop classic into a chugging, quirky rock track is a treat that everyone should hear, and In turn speaks volumes about the collection of songs they’ve created. Whether you take it seriously or not, there’s a lot of fun to be had as they jump between styles and basically do what they’ve always done with just as much skill and spark as they’ve always had.
While their ambitious project came to an end a few months ago by this stage, there’s no denying that they created something special while it was running. Following two other solid collections of tracks, to end on a note like this says a lot about what they were doing and how it came out. Whether you actively participated in the Dial-A-Song project or not, Phone Power is still an album well worth checking out, and shows They Might Be Giants continuing to do what they do best.