By Brian Harris
Album Review: Phantogram “Voices”
The second album from the two-piece electro pop band Phantogram, “Voices”, was one of the more anticipated albums of 2014, based off of the reaction to their 2009 debut album, “Eyelid Movies”.
In the years since the release of “Eyelid Movies”, Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, the duo that make up Phantogram, have kept up the bands profile through collaborations with The Flaming Lips and Big Boi of Outkast as well as releasing a couple of EPs while working on “Voices”, which was released under the umbrella of their new label, Universal/Republic.
The “street beat” sound, which is how Barthel and Carter describe the Phantogram sound, is alive and well on “Voices”. The sweeping, haunting vocals provided by both Carter and Barthel and well as the Massive Attack meets Santogold-like melancholy backbeat give off a vibe that allows the listener to get lost into the music.
There’s seems to be something missing though when you listen to the album. Upon first listen to the album, one can’t help but notice that the songs pick up and lose steam with a drop of a hat, ultimately leaving “Voices” with a somewhat flat feeling, even with the mixing of hip-hop beats in with the ambient sounds, which is something that bands of similar ilk like Sleigh Bells does with more punch. That being said, “Voices” is still a solid showing for Phantogram and is an album that will be talked about at the end of the year as being one of the more solid releases. ***1/4
Recommended Songs: ‘Black Out Days”, “I Don’t Blame You”, “Celebrating Nothing”
Album Review: We Are The In Crowd “Weird Kids”
When you first listen to Poughkeepsie pop-punk band We Are the In Crowd, the immediate comparison to Paramore is made. From having a female singer, Taylor Jardine, to the standard-issue modern pop-punk lyrics about relationships and the soaring choruses, it’s quite easy to simply write off We Are The In Crowd as an attempt to cash in on the global popularity of Paramore.
What separates WATIC from Paramore though is two main things: Paramore sometimes, especially with later releases as nothing more that a vehicle for showing off lead singer Hayley Williams with interchangeable musicians backing which doesn’t seem the case for Jardine and company, with the sharing of lead vocal duties between guitarist Jordan Eckes and Jardine throughout their latest release, “Weird Kids”, which is out now on Hopeless Records.
The other main difference between WATIC and the band that they are constantly being compared to is that while both bands have the similar formulaic modern-day pop punk sound filled with crunchy guitars and synths but unlike Paramore, there is seems to be more of a realness to the lyrics to the songs on “Weird Kids” that is missing from the recent Paramore releases. For example, on the song “The Best Thing (That Never Happened),” Jardine sings about her ex, “You’ll crack just like the rest/When I break your fucking jaw,” which is something that you’ll never hear on a Paramore record.
“Weird Eyes” is a good second album from We Are In The Crowd. On songs like “Windows In Heaven” and “Long Live The Kids”, the band strays away from the hand-clap strewn pop-punk formula of today and delve into the world of big arena-like ballads and do a more than admirable job while still keeping the edge that seems to be the band’s signature to date. ***1/2
Recommended Songs: “Reflections”, “Long Live The Kids”, “The Best Thing (That Never Happened)”