PHANTOGRAM'S 'THREE': Less Sunshine, More Shadow
    • WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2016

    • Posted by: Kirsten Spruch

    RATING: 4/5

    It's no secret that Phantogram has always made dark music. That's what they're known for -- their distinct, slightly depressing sound. 2014's Voices was loaded with dark imagery, specifically in songs like "Nothing But Trouble," "Black Out Days," and "Celebrating Nothing." However, on their latest effort, Three, it feels like they've given the term "dark" a whole new meaning, diving even deeper into the abyss.

    The album starts off with an atmospheric opener, "Funeral Pyre," which can be defined as "a pile of wood on which a corpse is burned as part of a funeral ceremony in some traditions." Singer Sarah Barthel's voice feels as if it's soaring and slightly dipping as the ethereal guitars catch it mid-air. Producer Josh Carter continues his lucky streak of heavy beats on the first single off the album "You Don't Get Me High Anymore." In this song, and on a lot of the the record, the group attempts a more polished version of themselves. They trim the fat and cut right to the chase. It's the Phantogram that we all know and love, but with more pop sensibilities.

    In "Same Old Blues," Barthel sings, "I keep on having this dream where I'm stuck in a hole and I can't get out / There's always something that's pulling me down." From this line, we can infer that Barthel is having some serious stress-related nightmares. Dreams about falling in holes or feeling stuck can often be interpreted as fear of death and/or feeling powerless. Now, we're not saying Barthel is actually feeling this way, but we can assume that any connotation with this line is a negative one. In "Cruel World," they continue the theme of despondency, "I'm putting you out of your misery 'cause darling you're dragging me down," Barthel lacks empathy for this person and has grown completely desensitized, "I used to see beauty in people, but now I see muscle and bones." "Barking Dog" is perhaps one of the darkest tracks on the record, "Head on the bathroom floor / Talking in my demon voice / Millions of years go by / Memories of peace and love," Carter wails this time, as emotional strings stir in the background, creating a sinking feeling that hits hard.

    The two sing about depression as if it's normal for them -- maybe it is, maybe it is not. To the listener, it's interpreted as, for lack of better words, sad, but it's cathartic. It's something we need to purge ourselves of the every day stresses we actually experience. When we spoke to them about the record, Barthel explained that she's never inspired to write a song when she's feeling happy at the beach, and although a lot of artists would agree, their music comes with an exceptionally larger amount of darkness. "The lyrics can be described as less sunshine and a little bit more shadow," said Barthel, hitting the nail on the head.

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