I have listened to the entirety of “Voices,” Phantogram’s newest album, and have reached the conclusion that they decided to make an album dedicated to breakups and heartaches. Despite that, their third album is an enjoyable combination of good melodies and straightforward lyrics. While Phantogram suffers slightly from the curse of The Killers, that of sticking to a certain sound at the expense of creating diversity in their songs, “Voices” does show some musical innovation vocally and instrumentally.
The most notable tracks of the album are “My Only Friend,” “I’m Never Going Home,” “Howling at the Moon,” “I Don’t Blame You” and “Bill Murray,” even if just because of the name. “My Only Friend” ends the album with an impressive finale. The track is heartbreaking, lyrically and vocally; lead singer Sarah Barthel sings “You’re all I have, my only friend” as the song nears to a close. This is definitely the type of song you listen to on an introspective rainy evening.
Josh Carter heads “I’m Never Going Home” in his most impressive track of the album. The chorus is instrumentally and melodically different from their normal style of extensive reverb and opens the song up a little bit. The honest lyrics and melody combine perfectly to express the bittersweet nature of falling in love, which can be hard to accomplish without making the song too sugary.
“Howling at the Moon” combines some percussion and melody in a sometimes dissonant way that definitely deviates from the band’s normal sound. While certain parts of the melody didn’t appeal to me aesthetically, it was a risk that for the most part paid off for the band.
“Bill Murray” is a notable track mainly due to its name. However, the song wouldn’t be out of place in a Wes Anderson film, so the name partially fits. The slow and calm melody soothes in a style that seems to be present in any Wes Anderson movie trailer ever. However, as a standalone, “Bill Murray” is also a deceptively sad track about goodbyes that starts to get to you after the second listen.
Finally, “I Don’t Blame You” features Josh Carter and a bit of a classical instrumental opening. The melody was perfectly adequate, but the lyrics were well executed despite their simplicity. As the song comes to a close, Carter sings, “I should’ve slept it off, I should’ve stayed in bed, I should’ve took your call” as the music fades off, and you can almost feel the pain in his voice. Again, this song is about sadness and heartbreak, further proving my point that this album is constructed for the hurting.
“Celebrate Nothing,” “Black Out Days,” “The Day You Died” and “I’m Nothing But Trouble” are all perfectly good tracks, but they do not stray from Phantogram’s go-to sound and are therefore easily lost in the mix of the album. Overall, their third album focuses on a particular emotion rather than taking on a mix of feelings and for the most part succeeds. While I would have liked to see a bit more diversity in the sound, the album produces several memorably melancholy tracks. Phantogram therefore continues to demonstrate their impressive ability to produce good music.