Phantogram – the electronica duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter – broke through on the backs of their live show, rather than their good-but-not-great debut album, Eyelid Movies (QRO review). 2014 follow-up Voices (QRO review) did up their game, but not to revelatory levels. Third record Three once again sees them doing better, and widening their sandbox.
Three stills traffics in Phantogram’s synths, but they’ve noticeably improved their beats, probably due in no small part to their teaming up with Big Boi as ‘Big Grams’ (QRO photos). They’ve also decidedly darkened their outlook. Both can be seen quite clearly on strong electro-dance single “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore”, plus dark procession “Run Run Blood”, but it all pervades from opener “Funeral Pyre” to the grime beats of closer “Calling All”. There is an exception, the powerful, emotional epic “Barking Dog”, where Carter temporarily takes lead vocals – perhaps Three could have done with more of this, or perhaps the song is stronger for being an outlier on the record.
Phantogram is still definitely in the synth-led electro-dance that has made them so popular, but Three also still shows yet more growth.