Same ‘Voices,’ Same Style
At Phantogram’s formation in 2007, Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel created an electro-rock fusion that was innovative in the indie rock world. It had a zinging edge to it, and vocals that screamed power and angst, but in a melodic sense. The duo’s long presence in the scene has allowed them to continually sell out shows, but it does not make up for the fact that their new album, “Voices,” does not add anything new to the table.
“Voices” is a compilation of overall upbeat electronic pop rock combined with high-pitched vocals and ironically depressing track titles. The album opens with the single, “Nothing But Trouble.” Immediately picture the band opening with this to get the crowd going and excited. It’s a strong, happy note that sets a tone for an album that will be straight indie rock with added influences of chamber pop and electronica.
As the album begins to progress … oh wait, it actually doesn’t do that. The next three to four tracks sound exactly the same. Now, one can give credit that they are simply good songs. It’s no wonder Phantogram has managed to remain relevant in the music scene for so long because these tracks are intricately arranged. However, they each seem to follow a similar formula. With the aforementioned descriptions of high vocal notes and electronic buzz comes redundancy and inability to distinguish between songs in ways other than when Carter is singing and when Barthel is singing.
“Black Out Days” and “Fall in Love” sound like minimal variations of “Nothing but Trouble,” and “Never Going Home,” which is vocally led by Carter. The track itself slows down a bit and the chorus is slightly more pleasant to listen to, but otherwise the tracks blend into one long and continuous one.
As soon as Sarah Barthel leads vocals again with “The Day You Died” it goes back to the same formula. It gets even more bothersome with “Bad Dreams,” which tries to capture the audiophile’s ear by including a catchy electronic drum line. Then the vocals come in high, and the overall sound becomes quite grating.
This set of high vocal notes becomes too much, and the ironically depressing lyrics titles do too. “Celebrating Nothing” and “My Only Friend” are even more of the same sadness, and the duo tries to build intensity in the final track, but in the end it leaves no memorable impression whatsoever.
The only track that does mildly stand out is “Bill Murray,” which seems to encompass a melodic set of instrumentals, a mild “indie lullaby.” In regard to whether the song actually embodies the sentiments/acting talents of Murray … let’s just say they did it for the whimsicality of the title.
Overall “Voices” is a set of droney, yet well-produced electronic rock tracks that start to mesh into one another. This isn’t to say that the music itself is bad quality. Rather, the songs lack any sort of innovation or experimentation. The duo knows what they are good at and simply stick to it. However, their style applies to only one formula, and this one does not work for multiple songs.
ONLY RECOMMENDED IF: You’re into “The Naked & Famous,” and want to hear the original sound.