Sophomore albums give bands and fans the heebeegeebees with good reason. Luckily, for Phantogram, this second album neither slouches nor slumps. 'Voices' finds them reaching greater heights of soulful fierceness and beats aplenty.
They've clearly matured since their 2010 debut on Barsuk Records, 'Eyelid Movies.' Carter’s guitar solos are more elaborate, particularly on “Fall In Love.” Sarah Bartel’s voice continues to flower in power, emotion, range, and soulfulness. She digs harder into her alto notes, before soaring into a sweet soprano magic.
That being said, there was a psych-hip-hop freshness to 'Eyelid Movies' with its glitch effects, Detroit grooves, and dreamy indie psychedelia. They still possess a certain dreaminess, particularly on the deeper non-single tracks. They were darkly humorous, sexy, and often tongue in cheek. They were even edgier than they intended; some outlets wouldn’t carry 'Eyelid Movies' on CD because of the song, 'Running From The Cops.'
They now touch a bit more on real topics instead of exquisitely bizarre, fantasies that get progressively weirder, though they still wax obtuse about relationships gone wrong. Lucy from 'When I'm Small' is still underground according to 'Nothing But Trouble' and Barthel probably still doesn't know if she's underground or in between.
'Mouthful of Diamonds' from 'Eyelid Movies' contains their best hyperbole, though 'Fall In Love' has some great zingers, too. Their literary appeal doesn't always get a fair listen. It’s hard not to shake your body when their beats accost you.
They traded in the mystique of creating their own night music beats in a faraway Upstate New York farmhouse studio and indie stardom on Barsuk Records for living at Sean White’s LA pad while recording in the big city under the umbrella of Universal/Republic.
Bigger isn’t always better. Some fans long for the days of the fierce, dynamic electro-indie duo from Saratoga Springs with their stripped-down live sound who toiled at part-time day jobs, recorded in a cabin, and slept in their car on tour. The cache of being secretly in the know is over. Phantogram belongs to everyone now.