Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Phantogram - Voices

It's winter. Cleveland isn't letting us forget. I'm hearing it's like that all across the U.S. All I know is that it's constantly dark, and my hands go numb every time I walk outside. My day job is to monitor the news. This winter we've had two stories that make up every newscast. Snow/cold and Sports. The Browns are firing all their coaches and CEOs and GMs and, oh yeah, if we spend a few minutes outside without gloves, we'll lose a finger.

But if you're OK with that being your reality, and in fact, you feel like embracing it, turn on this Phantogram album. Their sound is pure ice. It's nighttime, insomnia, mood, dark, and cold.

Still. It's not cold like "cold dance music." I listened to the most recent Rapture album and wanted to cut my ears off. It was cold -- as in sterile. As in screw you, we don't feel like fleshing this out all the way, so live with the half silence.

The chill that rushes through Voices is more of a warm freeze. It has heart and emotions, but it's masquerading as badass basslines and sexy vocals. It feels right, and it especially feels right at night after a long day of BS. It's not quite in the category of bedtime music. It's a little too "pump you up" for that, but I'd suggest it on drives home from work/class, on your way to whatever plans you have, or maybe to psych you up about dragging your gigantic trashcan through a 7-foot-high pile of snow because it's not getting warm enough to melt it down even a centimeter. Because even the most dreaded moments in life need a soundtrack. And if a jittery synthesizer can do that for you, then why not?

Voices is a solid piece of work, but top-heavy if anything. "Nothing But Trouble" starts off the album with a fizz of feedback and (didn't think I'd say this about a Phantogram song, but...) melodies you just want to sing along with. "Black Out Days" has a nice slow groove. Then, you hit the first single, "Fall in Love," which definitely earns the claim to earworm status most quickly by sampling soul and hitting you with one hell of a chorus. I'm not saying Phantogram's second full-length goes downhill from there -- I mean, I'm already singing along to almost every song after a handful of listens -- but it slows down and throws fewer punches from that point on.

Get your hands on this. It comes out a week from today, and we still have like 4 more months of winter (at least in Cleveland) to bask in its inky glory. (Can my friends in LA tell me if it sounds good in 70 degree weather, too?) One last point I want to make. I feel like there's a sharp dissection in music today: dance/electronic and rock/pop. And I really enjoy how Phantogram combines the great melodies I look for in pop and the glitchy/harsh textures and mood of dance music. We all win here.

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