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‘Voices’ fails to achieve its potential

Staff Writer

Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 22:02

None of Phantogram’s songs from their newest album, “Voices” have gained popularity on Spotify, and it’s probably not just because the album was released this week.

Before anything else is said, listen to “When I’m Small” by Phantogram. The artist isn’t bad at all, and the song shows how much potential the duo has. But that’s to save them from the review that follows.

Consisting of vocalist and guitarist Josh Carter and vocalist and keyboardist Sarah Barthel, the group was formed in 2007 and is an electronic rock duo. They hail from New York and are rumored to write and record in a barn upstate. The name Phantogram lends itself to an optical illusion in which two-dimensional objects appear to be three-dimensional. Originally called Saratoga Everywhere, the two high school friends reunited after college and failed music careers. After signing with BBE they changed their name. Since then, they’ve released a studio album, four EPs and five singles, three of which were collaborations with Big Boi from Outkast. Their songs have been featured in TV shows “Skins” and “Shameless,” and the movie “Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”

There’s been some stir about “Black Out Days” and “Fall in Love” off the album (even on Facebook). Overall, Black Out Days isn’t that bad, but parts of it clawed at my skin, especially Barthel’s singing. “Fall In Love” has catchy and heavy electric whirring. Twisting it up a little at the end with stringed instruments, they could’ve elongated the section and done more with it. It breaks down too subtly in the middle, getting right back on track with the rest of the song. What I noticed about many of the songs was how repetitive they were, seeming to drag on.

I was unimpressed with the opening song. The beginning is difficult to grasp and the rest of the song seems like a mess of multiple, disharmonized sounds. I think “Never Going Home” may be the focal point of the album and the first song where Carter’s voice is heard. It actually sounds like voices, many of them too. Backed by dreamy accents of Barthel’s singing, Carter sings, “If this is love, I’m never going home.” According to an interview by, Carter described the band’s sound as “lots of rhythms, swirling guitars, spacey keyboards, echoes, airy vocals.” Very true of the ending of the song, but everything ends up sounding like over synthesized, well, everything.

The album may be good for some background noise. If you don’t pay too much attention to the music, it’s quite enjoyable.

Songs to listen to: “The Day You Died,” “Never Going Home.”


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