Record Bulletin

Phantogram – “Three” Review

phantogram-threePHANTOGRAM – Three (Universal): This third outing might edge Yankee electropop duo Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel closer toward the periphery of the mainstream, but it’s also an album that does not suffer from fatigue, that knows exactly how long it should run, that has distinct songs. Their 2010 debut, Eyelid Movies, saw a band blindly chiseling at a lump of electronica from which they were trying to build a sound, with several songs coming off as lesser incarnations of the two standouts, “Mouthful of Diamonds” and “Futuristic Casket.” On Three, they make no attempt to pay homage to the underground that birthed them outside the opening “Funeral Pyre,” going instead for the schlock pop throat: the sleek and sexy love-drug trip of “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” (which bears more than a passing resemblance to “Myxomatosis”), the regal, crescendoing and stuttering strings of “Barking Dog,” the chopped and looped vocal samples on “Cruel World,” the glitchy, warbled piano stumble of “Answer.” Barthel’s voice has evolved from the delicate, high-pitched, and almost timid whisperer on Eyelid Movies to a controlled but confident pop vet. Apparently recorded amid the sour news of Barthel’s sister’s passing, the album does have its fair share of dark and death songs, but Phantogram’s strategy is to keep the beat going: “Shake, you know you wanna shake, keep goin’ now.” Admittedly that one’s about coke-addled prostitutes, but still. B PLUS (***)

Related:

Phantogram – Voices (Republic ’14): B PLUS (*)

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