Since 2007 Phantogram have been nudging mainstream indie electronica into new territory through their experimental brand of indie trip hop. With the release of their third album, cleverly titled Three, the New York duo’s creativity seems near limitless. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the album itself works.
Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel are no strangers to mixing styles, it’s what broke them into the mainstream in the first place and continues to maintain their status as one of the most original, outside of the box thinking duos in the industry right now. Three is a hit and miss album, it’s by no means a perfect, but there are moments when all the different cogs of the Phantogram machine fit perfectly into place and you’re lost to a beat and a melody that are, for want of a better word, magic.
The singles are the obvious boundary pushing tracks here, You Don’t Get Me High Anymore feels like exactly what musical sampling should be. It’s vicious drum beats matched by Barthel’s liquid vocals work to create a piece that rises and falls as fast as the heart beat it inspires.
Tracks like Calling All shouldn’t work. Its odd formatting and drastic jumps in vocals styles should overcrowd and confuse a track but come its addictive chorus you’ve forgotten all about tempos and influences and you’re just in it for that sweet, sweet bassline as everything else falls into place in accompaniment.
There are times when certain choices don’t pay off, Barking Dog cuts in halfway through the album sounding like an unwanted Lloyds TSB advert (have a listen and you’ll know what we mean). One or two of the slower, more indie-focused tracks also feel a little lacklustre, perhaps due to an oversaturation of their ilks style in our modern music climate, but also due to them being followed by excellent, ambitious pulse ramping flourishes of brilliance that put their largely safe stylings to shame. As rare as these moments are, they have the jarring effect necessary to move this album from a position of perfection to a lesser, near perfect work in progress. This isn’t a real issue, the pursuit of perfection is something Phantogram seem to consciously strive for, and more often than not hit the mark.
If you ignore the occasional missteps and take each track as it’s own creation rather than the album as a whole, Three will give you some of the best musical moments you’ll be able to find this month, and if it continues to infect us as it has so far in the few days we’ve spent enjoying it, it’s one for the end of the year best album lists.
You can find out more about Phantogram, their new album and their upcoming UK tour dates on their website here.