Phantogram, the musical duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, took their time to release their second full-length album “Voices.”
It has been four years since the release of Phantogram’s first LP “Eyelid Movies” in 2010. “Voices” has been highly anticipated since the 2011 release of the captivating EP “Nightlife,” which featured addicting, hyped indie hits such as “Don’t Move” and “16 Years,” both making the rounds on various television shows and commercials.
Barthel and Carter’s music gravitates toward an almost hypnotic sound — electronic chillwave with infusions of hip-hop — and will inevitably have listeners tapping their feet and nodding their heads.
However, “Voices” does not pack quite the same punch and allure as their previous releases.
The album opens promisingly with “Nothing But Trouble,” in which Barthel’s haunting voice delivers a dark serenade that sounds like she is fighting a battle within herself.
As the album progresses, listeners hear softer sounds than that of Phantogram’s previous works. The hazy production provides an eerie tone for the entirety of the album. Clear standouts are “Black Out Days” and “Fall In Love,” both of which come at the beginning of the album and tread similar sonic territory as previous releases.
Barthel’s voice often overshadows Carter’s, even in the songs where Carter takes the lead (“Never Going Home” and “I Don’t Blame You”). While Carter’s voice is entrancing in its own right, it is simply no match for Barthel’s.
An intriguing track comes by way of “Bill Murray,” which is perhaps the sharpest departure for Phantogram. The song has a sunny lilt and a cheeky title. The band is straying away from the sharp punches that made “Eyelid Movies” and “Nightlife” so arresting.
Toward the end of the album is the gorgeous “Celebrating Nothing,” on which Barthel morbidly begs “Give me a reason to stay alive,” resurrecting the somber mood from earlier in the album.
The album’s final number is “My Only Friend,” a dreamy song that fails to leave a lasting impression.
“Voices” has its ups and downs but, as a whole, the scale is tipped in a positive direction. Phantogram have softened their voice and toned down some of the elements that fans initially fell in love with. The result is still beautiful.
Madeleine Grossman is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]