Sound — 8
Phantogram was formed by Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter in 2007. They were friends as children and after each had a bad experience after leaving home as adults to pursue other careers they reconnected to finish working on music they had started together years previously. This developed into a lasting collaboration and the birth of Phantogram as a band. "Voices" is the second full-length release by the duo. There are 11 tracks on the album, which clocks in at just a little under 45 minutes. "Fall in Love" was released as the first single from the album in December 2013.
The album opens with the track "Nothing But Trouble" which opens up with some guitar noise and midi drums and soon turns into a completely different type of animal with a much more "electronica" type of sound. "Black Out Days" has a strong vibe that helps to carry the whole track and is reminiscent of Portishead. "Fall in Love" is the single from the album, and has an almost "funk" feeling to it. "Never Going Home" starts out with something that seems like '80s key-tar electronica, but when the guitar comes in the track starts to really fill out into something unique. This track is also the first on the album to feature co-lead vocals by Sarah and Josh. "The Day You Died" sounds much more like an indie rock song that electronica or trip-hop, and this is where Phantogram's strength is most apparent as they are equally comfortable in the realms of trip-hop, electronica and indie rock. "Howling at the Moon" is another track that strongly reminds me of Portishead. This track is all about the vibe it elicits, and is probably one of my favorites from the album. "Bad Dreams" is next and starts out with a sharp little guitar melody and some "drum machine" sounding drums - the song slowly builds up with Sarah's vocals coming in. "Bill Murray" is the next track on the album, and one of the most "electronica" feeling tracks on the album. "I Don't Blame You" is another track where Josh provides some lead vocals, though they're heavily processed. It works well for the song, however, and I find myself going back to this track. "Celebrating Nothing" is another track whose strength lies in the vibe it creates - while it is pretty sparse, musically, for most of the track, the vocals really help to carry this track. The album closes out with the track "My Only Friend," which is a quieter and sweet song to close out the album with.
Lyrics — 8
Sarah Barthel does contribute the majority of the lyrics, which she does a commendable job of, but Josh is also vocalist for the band and he does a passable job in the brief times where he provides lead vocals. I especially liked Josh's vocals on the track "I Don't Blame You." My favorite vocal performance by Sarah was probably on the track "Black Out Days." As a sample of the lyrics from the album, here are some lyrics from the single "Fall in Love": "Love/ It wasn't ours to recognize/ to see/ I was the reason you feel sick inside/ Fall in me/ I'll let you bleed/ cause you were fallin'/ I'm sorry I may be/ cause you're fallin' I'm sorry I/ Love/ it cut a hole into your eyes/ you couldn't see you were the car I crashed/ now you're burning alive."
Overall Impression — 7
I get into a mood to listen to good trip hop occasionally, but always end up feeling let down that newer groups in the genre don't seem to creating the quality of music I'm wanting to hear - Phantogram may be finally creating good new trip hop. I enjoy the fact that both members are actually musicians vs. just being vocalists, and that has definitely gone a long way towards creating their unique sound as a band. My favorite tracks would have to be "Black Out Days," "I Don't Blame You," and "Bad Dreams." My least favorite song from the album would probably be single, "Fall in Love."