Phantogram – Three

Phantogram - ThreeIt’s been a couple years since the release of last album by Phantogram, but a lot has changed. Last year they put out a collaboration EP with Big Boi under the name Big Grams, singer Sarah Barthal lost her sister at the start of the year, and life went on – for better or for worse. Bad things come in threes. On this, their third album, also named Three, they cite the deaths of Bowie, Prince and Sarah’s sister as having the greatest impact on the album.

It’s a stepping stone into a whole new perspective where suddenly things aren’t so bright anymore. Perhaps a fitting theme following the results of the American election. You Don’t Get Me High Anymore is about no longer finding the same enjoyment in the things that used to bring happiness. Cruel World is the transition between a previously optimistic outlook and more realistic pessimism, with Josh Carter taking the lead as he sings “I used to see beauty in people/But now I see muscle and bones.” Run Run Blood is commentary on the challenges of digesting what we see and hear in the world, with the restless repetition of “Hey wolf/there’s lions in there/lions in there.” Like many of the tracks, the brash undertones highlight the discomfort and depressive state of the lyrics.

Three isn’t as appetizing as Voices, mostly due to the production that lacks the smooth textures that made it so glorious. This is denser with more effort put into drawing out a feeling of despair. As the album progresses, it gets darker, even to the point where it literally sounds like it’s falling apart at track 7, Answer. Oddly, it ends on a catchy upbeat track, Calling All, that may be about more than the repeating line “we all got a little bit of ho in us” might suggest. Yet, despite the theme, Three is surprisingly tame, sometimes swaying alarmingly close to current pop music trends. It touches on greatness but never fully digs in.

Three stars

1. Funeral Pyre
2. Same Old Blues
3. You Don’t Get Me High Anymore
4. Cruel World
5. Barking Dog
6. You’re Mine
7. Answer
8. Run Run Blood
9. Destroyer
10. Calling All

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