all words: Paula Mejia
Let’s be honest. This is the show I’ve been waiting for the entirety of fall. From the very opening of “Mouthful of Diamonds” from 2009’s Eyelid Movies, we all knew this duo was destined for indie stardom (check out our interview with them from back then here-ed). Even if you don’t want to, try as you might to fight the feeling, it’s inevitable: Phantogram transcends more than just that band that should be on your radar and into the band that you just can’t escape, from rave reviews to the name on everyone’s lips.
And the attention is well-deserved. Selling out a headlining show at Black Cat tonight (along with a resume spanning from Coachella and Lollapalooza, as well as tours with Yeasayer, Caribou, Beach House and the xx) Phantogram embodies the very optical illusion from which they are named, one that flirts the line between downright mysterious and terrifyingly beautiful.
Their latest release, the Nightlife EP, sees the band exploring more upbeat tempos. Laden with the same swelling guitar work and breathy vocals, the EP is much less about trudging through city streets in that strange divide between dream and sleep, and more about making just catchy as hell psych pop.
So what distinguishes Phantogram from their inevitable peers such as Toro y Moi and Washed Out? From being lumped into the same 80s throwback chillwave phenomenon sweeping independent and electronic music in recent years? Well, for starters, their sound embodies a feeling both familiar and simultaneously haunting. Ethereal, spaced-out vocals from Sarah Barthel harken back to Lust, Lust, Lust-era Raveonnettes and . Crunchy, swirling shoegaze guitars echo (literally) to Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine. The beats in “Running From the Cops” could have been easily collaborated with a less subdued version of Philly’s enigmatic Black Moth Super Rainbow.
It’s in the melding of these genres where Phantogram has this uncanny way of making their infectious beats seep from cracked pavement in back alleys and directly into your dreams.