Phantogram has already given us a few tastes of its latest LP, prior to its release. Not long ago, the upstate New York duo released the sad and beautiful slow-burner, “Bill Murray.” At the time, guitarist Josh Carter said he and singer/keyboardist Sarah Barthel pictured a sad Bill Murray movie while writing it, and they nailed that feeling. The song could soundtrack a scene in “Lost in Translation.”
It speaks to their attention to detail and certainty in what they want. Voices is a record that sounds as natural as it sounds labored-over. A song like “Celebration,” for instance, is like a cathartic outpouring, with keys soaring over a pulsing beat as Barthel asks, “How many times can I blow it all? / How many times can I burn it down?” It’s arresting. Then you’ve got songs like “Howl At The Moon,” where the pair’s songwriting chops and trip-hop leanings are both on display. It’s all rattling drum machines, clanking bells and drones, and around the 2:20 mark, they come as close as they’ll get to a breakdown with a funky Daft Punk-ish synth rhythm.
Both of those songs reflect the darker, heavier sound that permeates Phantogram’s second full-length record. They set the tone straight away with the album opener, “Nothing But Trouble,” and pick up the tempo to dance speeds less than they have in the past. A slow-motion dance scene could be set to the jagged guitar bits of “Nothing But Trouble.” There are just a couple — most notably “Falling In Love” — that you might really be able to dance to. Again, they’re at home in their trip-hop comfort zone, with deep and fuzzy bass rhythms, some off-kilter time signature changes and synth flourishes.
Phantogram hasn’t totally shaken things up, but the heavier turn on Voices is pretty satisfying, and their songs are as engrossing as ever.