The threat of Phantogram hasn't been quite so apparent until now. The duo's third record Three shows them at their highest, combining electronica, indie, and even hip-hop flair into one big mission statement.
The New York duo always had a certain swagger to them, and they make the best of it on their new record. There's the blues rock-meets-electronica jammer of 'Same Old Blues' that mixes sick guitar lines with deep psuedo-bass drops. There's also lead single 'You Don't Get Me High Anymore', a slam on a dying love that finds a brooding tone in its demanding bassline in the instrumental and the layers upon layers of harmonies that build the track. 'You're Mine' brings in a different kind of swagger, the heavy beat and challenging vocal delivery that functions as a tradeoff between Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter. It's more badass than the swag of the prior tracks, but still proves the point of the band's presence.
Hip-hop isn't something commonly channeled in indie projects, but Phantogram makes it a strong aspect of their record. Perhaps the most brooding and awesome track on the record is 'Run Run Blood', with Phantogram sounding like a rock version of Run The Jewels. The first verse begins with Barthel chanting "Hey wolf, there's lions in here / There's lions in here, there's lions in here / Hey wolf, just see there's no fear / Just see it's no fair, there are lions in here," as Carter follows through with his own interjection of "Extra, extra, read all about it / You think you slow me down? I highly doubt it / I own the paperboys, and you're the buyer / Your world is my world now to live and die in." The chorus backs away from the badass and instead takes a harmonious route with Barthel powerfully calling out that "It's bigger than life / It's bigger than love / It's bigger than us / Bigger than all."
The album closes on a similar hip-hop vibe, albeit resolving with a poppier flair by its conclusion, with 'Calling All'. When songs aren't badass or full of swagger, they're very introspective or uplifting. See the sweet guitar intro of 'Destroyer' that builds sweetly into an uplifting indie rock monster. 'Answer' is much the same, its weird glitchy piano providing as a back for sweet vocals, all leading to a big, uplifting, and confident ending. Other songs like 'Cruel World' delves into a matter of perspective, Barthel singing of her loss in faith in humanity.
This album may be powerful in those senses, but it does have some weirdness to it. Its start is bumpy, the glitchy atmosphere of 'Funeral Pyre' sounding cluttered as it opens the album. Many songs have to be revisited on their own before they really click and become something special - it doesn't really flow all that well, each song surrounded by others with vague similarities but don't make quite enough of a connection to justify their vast differences. It's an eclectic experience, but one that's worth delving into. It won't click right away, but you have to give it a bit of time to grow.
Phantogram's third album is their most confident one yet. All the pressure is behind them and they're really settling into their place as musicians. Their force is yet to be recognized, but Three is on course to make some waves. Beware their swagger.
Favorite Tracks: Run Run Blood, Destroyer, You Don't Get Me High Anymore
Least Favorite Track: Barking Dogs
Rating: 84 / 100