First Listen: Phantogram, 'Voices'

by Stephen Thompson

Phantogram's new album, Voices, comes out Feb. 18.
Phantogram's new album, Voices, comes out Feb. 18. (Courtesy of the artist)
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    Feb 11, 2014

Phantogram plays spiky, dense and danceable pop-rock songs with an electronic pulse: Most of its songs have an insistent grind to them, with a percussive through-line snapping and jabbing and infusing virtually every moment with jumpy urgency. But singer/keyboardist Sarah Barthel and guitarist Josh Carter still let these songs breathe in surprising ways, so that the moments of quiet that slip through — like the spare and surprising piano which pops up at the end of "Black Out Days" — have that much more impact.

Even a sullen ballad like "Bill Murray" is fueled by a low, churning buzz, yet Barthel still infuses the darkest and most driving Phantogram songs with warmth, mystery and sinewy, sinister style. The Saratoga Springs, N.Y., duo has spent the last four or five years bubbling up, and it's never sounded more current; it helps that the duo has suddenly turned up in commercials and on high-profile movie soundtracks, to the point where you couldn't avoid Phantogram's music if you wanted to. Voices is the sound of a band at ease and assured in its moment, as it seizes every scrap of momentum it's created for itself.

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