The Musicorium

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Posts Tagged ‘Phantogram’

Phantogram

Posted by SP on April 18, 2010

Synth-pop is big now, which kind of makes people as old as I am, who lived the through the age of Depeche Mode, New Order and Erasure as it happened  kind of laugh a little.  If you were gay or in college or hung out in dance clubs a lot it was epic stuff, but it was always a subculture thing.  The real innovators of the period were never known outside of a handful of listeners and the sound in general only registered with people when it trickled into more mainstream pop acts, which again, is kind of like what’s happening now.

At this point I’m just gonna spare you anymore of the obligatory Rolling Stone (or throughly derivative Pitchfork) bullshit about influences or history and just tell you that I love Phantogram.  While it is synth-driven, the sound of Phantogram to me really centers on Sarah Barthel’s voice hanging in a lot of empty space that the music sort of creates in the negative.  Josh Carter’s guitar is masculine but understated, weaving in and out through the space in a way that  complements Barthel’s vocals perfectly.  The darkness of the lyrics gives the whole thing an edge of tragedy that’s hard to resist.  It’s haunting and sexy and just cool.

Yeah, I know they said this about synth-pop in the 80s too. The early stuff has a sense of novelty about it though that makes it campy in a way that diminishes its staying power.  This time around, with electronic music having come into its own, it’s possible to make this music in an environment that takes it seriously. Without taking anything away from the greats of 20 years ago, I think that makes it a little bit smarter and a little bit better.  That’s just what I think though.  You can judge for yourself. Here are two of my favorites from their most recent album, the first from a very cool session at KEXP in Seattle that gives a rare glimpse at how this kind of music is made live.

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