Phantogram - Eyelid Movies
Record Label: Barsuk
Release Date: February 9, 2010
Phantogram are, for lack of a better description, an electronic duo from Saratoga Springs, NY. Eyelid Movies is their debut full-length.
How Is It?
When they announced their signing with Barsuk Records late last year, I thought it a strange partnership. Phantogram, whose ghostly name befits the haunting music they create, didn't seem to fit in on the label who gave Rilo Kiley and Death Cab for Cutie their starts and who still houses acts like Mates of State and Rocky Votolato. Not exactly trip-hop, dream pop or alt-dance, their music combines elements of each, backboned by sampled beats and complemented by Sarah Barthel's keyboard, Josh Carter's guitar and a dual vocal approach, led primarily by Barthel, whose voice has the detached melancholy of Beth Gibbons and Hope Sandoval.
When all of it's parts are firing on all cylinders, the results are nothing short of astounding. On the album's best tune "As Far as I Can See", the addictive rhythm is an immediate attention grabber, the shimmery guitar is drenched in reverb and Barthel's vocal is equal parts brooding and sensual. It's the most stunning example of Phantogram's ability to craft creepy and affecting music, but there are highlights all over the album. Carter handles much of the vocals on "Futuristic Casket", which also throws a hip-hop pulse into the mix, adding a sinister edge to their eerie sound. He's also the voice behind "Turn It Off", which toys with complex time signatures, to interesting effect.
There's very little here to find fault with; a slow burner like "All Dried Up" might not be as immediate a some of the other songs here, but it's still penetrating, and fits in well with the album as a whole. There's a variety of sounds and beats to be found, but the overall effect throughout is primarily spooky, ethereal, and as the title Eyelid Movies would suggest, dreamlike. Phantogram have put forth a collection of heady and stimulating songs primed for in-the-dark listening.
This isn't really my type of music, but I heard "Mouthful of Diamonds" a few weeks ago and fell in love with it. The album didn't strike me as well that special, but definitely not bad.
Great, concise review. I definitely agree with the score.