Pop Addict: Phantogram’s Nightlife EP

Every other Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.

Phantogram: NightlifePhantogram: Nightlife EP (Barsuk, 11/1/11)

Phantogram: “Don’t Move”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Phantogram_Dont_Move.mp3|titles=Phantogram: “Don’t Move”]

In 2010, the electronic-pop duo Phantogram burst on the scene with its impressive debut offering, Eyelid Movies. The duo, comprised of Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel, brought a fresh perspective to the indie scene, showcasing an album that was both elusive and grounded at the same time — simultaneously experimental and catchy. It was so well received, in fact, that Carter and Barthel were able to quit their day jobs and tour relentlessly in support of the album. Alternating between vocal duties, Barthel and Carter concocted an assortment of beat-heavy drum loops, ornamental guitar work, bipolar synthesizers and samples, and two-headed harmonies. Phantogram was one of the best new acts of year. And so the question remained, as it does with every notable debut act: could they follow it up?

With the six-song Nightlife EP, Phantogram builds on what made Eyelid Movies such an achievement in saturated digital pop. Yet again harboring a swath of soundscapes and sonic concoctions, Phantogram has constructed a record that fleshes out its strengths. Between Carter’s guitar work, Barthel’s keyboard work, and both of their vocal and sampling duties, the duo has positioned itself as one of indie’s most beloved new entities.

Standout track “Don’t Move” — the first single culled from the EP — gets off on the right foot by mixing sample assortments with pulsing beats, pieced together with a Barthel’s hook-laden melody and a barrage of instrumental diversity. Likewise, Carter and Barthel’s vocal duet on “Turning Into Stone” amplifies Phantogram’s appeal and catchiness while also infusing the background with an arsenal of fuzz, crashing cymbals, and feedback. The title track, meanwhile, features a swirling acoustic guitar backed by outer-space euphonies, before breaking into the familiar territory of beat-driven arrangements decorated with full-fledged harmonies, electric-guitar noodles, and keyboard-drenched meanderings.

Nightlife feels very much like a continuation of where Eyelid Movies left off. It serves as an excellent appendix to its predecessor — the perfect companion to the sonic movements accomplished on Eyelid Movies — which in turn expands on what the band does correctly. Rather than offer a proper LP follow-up, Phantogram is content to play up what it does best. And, ultimately, it is refreshing to see a band stick to what it knows. The songs that adorn the EP prove that Carter and Barthel know what they’re doing, as some of these tracks are their best achievements yet. Nightlife, if nothing else, assures the duo that there’s no reason to run back to those day jobs.

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