Anyone that states that music is not as good as it used to be needs to catch up with the times. Thanks to artists including Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grimes, Warpaint, Autolux, Lana Del Rey, Empire of the Sun, and many more, music today is as great as ever.
One of the most brilliant bands to emerge in the past decade–Phantogram is a part of music’s greatness today, and the band soars. subnormal magazine names them one of the Top 10 New Artists of our Time. From pounding bass beats, melodic, swirling kaleidoscopic freak outs of searing guitar, trippy, hypnotic keyboards, brilliant songwriting and lyrics, and a sultry, perfect voice by the drop dead sexy Sarah Barthel, combined with a vast myriad of great, artistic videos, Phantogram is in a class by themselves, and like none you have ever heard. Stellar geniuses,and masters of their killer sound, they are a legendary new band that just make us want to dance. –Bruce Edwin, subnormal magazine
Three, Phantogram’s third studio album, the duo of Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel take their sound in an intriguing, darkly shaded direction, adding new textures to their signature style.
Three represents a new creative peak that Phantogram has been building towards for nearly a decade. Carter and Barthel first broke out in 2009 with the cinematic Eyelid Movies (Barsuk) – recorded in a barn in Saratoga Springs, NY (near their hometown of Greenwich) – and after a buzz-building EP (Nightlife, Barsuk) and much touring, Phantogram opted for a change of scenery by recording their expansive second LP, 2014’s Voices (Republic),in Los Angeles with co-producer John Hill (M.I.A., Santigold).
In between Voices (which spawned the hits “Fall In Love” and “Black Out Days”) and Three, Phantogram have certainly kept busy. They contributed to The Flaming Lips’ The Terror, A-Trak’s “Parallel Lines,”and Miley Cyrus’ Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz, remixed Charli XCX, and were sampled by Kanye West and A$AP Rocky, as well as a collaboration project called Big Grams with OutKast’s Big Boi. Following the release of a critically-acclaimed self-titled debut album in late 2015, Big Grams has proved to be a festival mainstay in 2016 – entertaining huge audiences with compelling sets riddled with Big Grams’ psychedelic hip-hop, and rounded out with the two acts’ mashups of each other’s hit songs.
Despite the full schedule, Carter and Barthel find themselves far from creatively tapped-out. Recent collaborations pushed them musically and Three displays a surging energy and appealing experimentation, effectively showcasing a band reaching for and achieving new aesthetic heights.
The album was recorded over the past year at co-producer Ricky Reed’s Echo Park-based studio. Finding inspiration in unlikely places for a band increasingly heard on commercial alternative and pop radio, Carter found fresh perspective in AfroBeat and ‘60’s R&B when creating the steady beats that form the foundation of the album. Despite the new influences and a strong experimental motivation, Three still unmistakably sounds like Phantogram, with plenty of thick, buzzing beats and snaking melodic lines to sink your teeth into.
Three is a triumphant record, but it also bears the mark of personal tragedy. During the recording process, the band suffered a devastating loss when Barthel’s sister (and Carter’s close friend since childhood) Becky passed away of suicide. Work on music stopped immediately, but then as the duo slowly returned to the studio the aftermath of their personal loss (compounded by the deaths of David Bowie and Prince, two of Phantogram’s greatest musical heroes and inspirations) began to reverberate throughout the process, imbuing the album with varied shades of complicated, human emotion that Carter refers to as “Finding the beauty within tragedy.”
“It’s about heartbreak, and having to push forward and move on—and how challenging that is,” Barthel states. “It’s made us the people we really are, and it’s a huge part of what this record means to us.”
Along with exploring new emotional territory, Three also finds Phantogram breaking new sonic ground. The album’s eclectic, bold songs swerve from pop-inflected bangers (like lead single “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” and album-closer “Calling All”) to the skipping melancholia of “Answer,” which strikes a perfect balance between loping hip-hop rhythms, understated balladry, and gauzy indie-rock. Meanwhile, more experimental, psych-influenced pieces like “Run Run Blood,” the harrowing Steve Reich-sample-driven “Barking Dog,” and “Funeral Pyre” (a re-working of longtime live staple “Intro” that, fittingly, opens the album) somehow are perfectly at ease alongside the darkly beautiful, cathartic ballad “Destroyer,” all capturing themes of heartbreak, anguish and perseverance; second single “Same Old Blues,” the smoky, menacing duet “You’re Mine,” and the icy determination of “Cruel World” bring listeners back to the sample-heavy, synth-driven Phantogram sound that has found them an extensive, dedicated fan base.
An iridescent record that glows with warmth even as it explores the desolation of personal pain, Three is the latest chapter in Phantogram’s impressive ascent to the forefront of music—as well as proof that nothing, at this point, can hold them back.
Biography and video courtesy of Phantogram / Republic / UMG, copyright 2017, all rights reserved.
Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner will be greatly missed. I had the honor to meet and hear this legendary guitarist with Jefferson Airplane live, many years ago, as a guest of Janis Joplin’s band Big Brother and the Holding Company. Paul Kantner was amazing. When I first heard his work on “White Rabbit,” and (Don’t you want) “Somebody to Love,” I was blown away with his bands phenomenal sound.
Grimes Releases New Video
The brilliant multi-media recording artist and producer Grimes shares the official video for ‘Venus Fly,’ which she released to the world recently. Hollywood Sentinel named Grimes as one of the Top 10 Greatest Artists of Our Time last year, and ‘Venus Fly,’ brilliantly mixing house, drum and bass, dance, techno, trance, and more, solidifies that decision. Directed and edited by Grimes, the video also features Janelle Monáe. ‘Venus Fly’ is now live online. ‘Venus Fly’ is taken from Grimes’ critically-adored album ‘Art Angels’ (4AD). Last year, Grimes toured for the album, selling out venues and headlining festivals around the world. Regarding her outstanding directing, Grimes says of the video, “We used the Phantom cameras to create a feeling of time suspended.” Check out the video here: