Release Date: February 9, 2010
Recently, it seems like New York City, particularly Brooklyn, has had a monopoly on experimental electronic-based indie bands (Animal Collective, TV on the Radio, Yeasayer, and the list goes on). Upon first listen, it may seem fair to assume that Phantogram belong in the aforementioned talented shortlist. Surprisingly, the duo of guitarist Josh Carter and keyboardist Sarah Barthel are not from far from Siena, originating in Saratoga Springs. The once-local live staple have now signed with Barsuk Records, home to bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Harvey Danger and Ra Ra Riot, and released their major-label debut, Eyelid Movies.
Take the sparse yet terribly evocative instrumental minimalism of The XX (an absolute required listen), and add the welcoming addition of electronic elements to the mix. This recipe provides a rough idea of their core sound, which they admirably vary enough throughout the album. It is mightily impressive that only a guitarist and keyboardist create the at-times magnificent melodies present in some of the songs, and the affectionate, sometimes detached vocals of both Carter and Barthel only add to the ambience.
Eyelid Movies works not only because it is refreshingly well-done for a debut, but because of its differences among songs. The distorted vocals and stuttering synths on “Running from the Cops” create an unsettling aesthetic during the entire song. The gradual build-up and touching vocals from Barthel on “All Dried Up” is reminiscent of Saturdays = Youth-era M83, accelerating at the right pace to make the eventual auditory climax that much more gratifying. “As Far as I Can See” stands out with its perpetually fractured sampling of horns and female exclamations, all the while the dreamy female pipes coalesce to create an unlikely infectious jam. It may not seem like much is happening from its morose beginning, but “You are the Ocean” suddenly encapsulates the listener with swirls of optimism and Carter’s titular decrying.
While Eyelid Movies is good enough any time of the day, its subtleties and implied melancholic sense make it seem destined to a more nocturnal role. It effortlessly conjures up images of walking down a street alone late at night under the starlit sky. Phantogram have created a cohesive collection of atmospheric electro-rock worthy of repeated listens and destined for widespread popularity (mark my words).