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Phantogram's new album 'Voices' appeals to your dark side

February 19, 2014|By Dana Moran

"Voices" 

Phantogram
3.5 out of 4 stars

If you're the kind of person who never wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, Phantogram's new album "Voices" probably is not your record. If you're often confused about which side of the bed is the right one, however, this New York duo (who, in my imagination, roomed with Swedish pop goddess Robyn in an underground goth sorority) may have created your new soundtrack.
Throughout the album, singer/guitarist Josh Carter and singer/keyboardist Sarah Barthel struggle with notions of identity and belonging. Opening track "Nothing But Trouble" immediately drops into their psyche with the line, "Do you ever have the feeling you've constantly been dreaming this is life?" Rather than making obvious allusions to the actor, "Bill Murray" seems to nod to his "Lost in Translation" character, Bob Harris. "Am I lonely?/ Cause it feels right/ If I look up/ Can you keep me alive?" Barthel sings, recalling Harris' near-complete isolation.
"Voices" marks an extraordinary step forward from 2011's great EP, "Nightlife," inspiring a nasty snarl with "Black Out Days" and plunging into a well of self-doubt on "Celebrating Nothing." The record is alternately ethereal and dancey but rarely optimistic. In fact, song titles like "The Day You Died" and "My Only Friend" may make Phantogram sound like it's being overly maudlin, but "Voices" actually represents a deft exploration of the duo's dark side. We've all had one of those days. Or months. Or years.
damoran@tribune.com | @redeyedana
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