EP review: Phantogram, self-titled

by Elizabeth Parker

Phantogram is growing up. The New York duo have released a self-titled EP offering a small sample of songs from their upcoming sophomore album, Voices.

The trendy pair are are best known for consistent, contemporary indie rock for the edgy, yet soft at heart. Despite their relatively underground existence since 2007, they have managed to insert themselves into a small bubble of the electronic rock genre that pleases the masses and alternative fans all at once.

In their latest work, they tend to play it safe, though Sarah Barthel’s vocals are as strong as ever, and still make the grade for originality, especially in the mellowed out, angsty “Celebrating Nothing”. Velvety, flowing melodies are coupled with lyrical endearments that are candid though a little bit predictable.

“Black Out Days” is the obvious single, with sex appeal somehow reminiscent of Massive Attack without the heavy basslines. More of Barthel’s soft, breathy vocals are found throughout “The Day You Died” which, really, could be a racier version of a song by The XX.

Even their lyrics have moved into adolescence, with true-to-life anthems that hit the mark: “Strange you didn’t affect me / Oh I came to say goodbye”. Their earlier ballads seem to have been replaced by darker, deeper themes and more openhearted sentiments.

It’s not hard to see why Phantogram are popular. They have electro, pop and rock appeal, and male and female vocals. Though honestly, nothing will top their catchy singles such as “Don’t Move” and “When I’m Small”. And from the sounds of it, they’ve grown up and calmed down instead of holding on to the spirit of their previous EP, Nightlife.

The undeviating, but decidedly confident EP promises either a solid album to follow or much of the same upbeat, moody genre that is already doing what it does best.