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Phantogram

Three
republic002533   LP / CD / DIGITAL Republic Records   October 2016

While recording their third studio album, Phantogram was already deep into the process of taking their sound in an intriguing, darkly shaded direction when Sarah's sister (and Josh's close friend since childhood) Becky passed away from suicide. The duo's work on music stopped immediately, but then as they slowly returned to the studio, the aftermath of their devastating personal loss (compounded by the deaths of David Bowie and Prince, two of their greatest musical heroes and inspirations) began to reverberate throughout the completion of the album, imbuing it with complicated human emotion that Josh refers to as "Finding the beauty within tragedy."

It's an iridescent album that glows with warmth even as it explores the desolation of personal pain.

Along with exploring new emotional territory, Three also found Phantogram breaking new sonic ground. The album's eclectic, bold songs swerve from pop-inflected bangers (like lead single "You Don't Get Me High Anymore" and album-closer "Calling All") to the skipping melancholia of "Answer," which strikes a perfect balance between loping hip-hop rhythms, understated balladry, and gauzy indie-rock. Meanwhile, more experimental, psych-influenced pieces like "Run Run Blood," the harrowing Steve Reich-sample-driven "Barking Dog," and "Funeral Pyre" (a re-working of longtime live staple "Intro" that, fittingly, opens the album) somehow are perfectly at ease alongside the darkly beautiful, cathartic ballad "Destroyer," all capturing themes of heartbreak, anguish and perseverance; guitar rock-inflected single "Same Old Blues," the smoky, menacing duet "You're Mine," and the icy determination of "Cruel World" bring listeners back to the sample-heavy, synth-driven Phantogram sound that first established the band in the hearts of listeners everywhere.

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