Wednesday, February 10, 2010
When they stepped onto the stage at Boston's Great Scott last night, Phantogram's Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter looked remarkably young and fresh-faced, not unlike the college kids who made up the majority of the crowd. For some reason, I expected the duo to be older—maybe just because the assured songs on their debut full-length Eyelid Movies (released just in time for last night's show) seem to reflect the confidence of long experience.
Phantogram's sound--which whips together bright, ringing guitars, smooth vocals, and dense, hip-hop-esque beats--sometimes reminds me of vintage Portishead or Bowery Electric, minus the feeling of stoned relaxation. Instead, songs like "Bloody Palms" and "Running from the Cops" combine languid melodies with an edgy, beat-driven intensity, while even the slower tracks, like "You Are the Ocean," seem to throb with anxiety. Though a few songs (like album closer "10,000 Claps") sound less fully developed than others, Eyelid Movies makes for a cohesive whole, filled with a compelling, seductive energy.
That energy was on full display last night at the show, when a small but adoring crowd danced, bounced up and down, sang along, and otherwise displayed their devotion. It may have been the band's relative inexperience that brought a slight initial tentativeness to their live show; it took them a few songs to really pick up the energy from the album. Still, for a two-person band (Carter on guitar and vocals, Barthel singing and dancing behind a daunting bank of synthesizers) Phantogram generated a remarkably big sound. They saved "When I'm Small" for last, and with good reason: it's probably the best song they've written yet, and it sounded incredible live, closing the show with a sexy, energetic swagger. As time goes on, I have no doubt they'll be able to harness that potential over a long-lasting career.
Download "When I'm Small" on MP3
- Anna K