Since their first studio release in 2009, electronic rock duo Phantogram have evolved from indie shoegazing to being as multi-dimensional as the band’s name suggests with the release of their striking second album Voices.
As a full-length album, the songs on Voices are surprisingly diverse, and could even be mistaken for a greatest hits album as the songs sound like they were picked as the strongest out of a highly successful band’s albums experimenting with varying musical styles.
The opening track ‘Nothing But Trouble’ is raw, gritty and demands the attention of the listener, showcasing Phantogram’s buzzing synths, dark guitar riffs, choppy samples and lead vocalist Sarah Barthel’s unique vocals in particular. Likewise, ‘Black Out Days’ helps to carry the album forward with its brooding, understated energy and Barthel’s sensual vocal delivery, and is arguably one of the stand-out tracks on the album, along with the more gentle and poetic ‘Bill Murray Burning Star’. Although Josh Carter, the other half of Phantogram, does well to deliver so much emotion in his vocal performance in ‘I Don’t Blame You’, the repetition of the lyrics and the predictability of the music make it one of the album’s weakest tracks.
Phantogram’s influences can be heard clearly in some of their songs (the verse and ending of ‘I Don’t Blame You’ reeks of Sonic Youth) and in others it can be hard to distinguish them from other similar bands (‘The Day You Died’ could easily have been released by The Joy Formidable), but their best songs, such as ‘Black Out Days’, are the ones that are unmistakeably theirs. Voices is a great example of how versatile Phantogram can be and its energy and emotion help to set them apart from other bands in the indie and electronic scene.