Pushing through tragedy among themes on third Phantogram album

The third studio album from the Upstate New York duo called Phantogram takes their sound in an “intriguing, darkly shaded direction, adding new textures to their signature style.” Simply and appropriately titled Three, the new release via Universal/Republic represents “a new creative peak” the group has been building toward for nearly a decade, according to a news release posted on Phantogram.com. Longtime friends Josh Carter (guitar, vocals) and Sarah Barthel (keyboards, vocals) first appeared in 2009 with the cinematic LP Eyelid Movies, which was recorded in a barn near Saratoga Springs, N.Y., not far from their hometown of Greenwich.

In 2014, Phantogram opted for a change of scenery by signing with Republic and recording their second LP, Voices, in Los Angeles with co-producer John Hill (M.I.A., Santigold). The Antlers’ Darby Cicci, session drummer Matt Chamberlain, Dan Wilson of Semisonic, and Ricky Reed (aka Wallpaper) are the featured guest musicians on Three. The collaborations pushed the duo musically, displaying a “surging energy and appealing experimentation” that effectively showcases a band “reaching for and achieving new aesthetic heights.”

Three was recorded at co-producer Ricky Reed’s Echo Park-based studio. It’s described as a triumphant record, but also bears the mark of personal tragedy. During the recording process, the band suffered a devastating loss when Barthel’s sister, Becky, committed suicide. Work was delayed until the pair was slowly able to return to the studio. The loss of musical heroes David Bowie and Prince also began to “reverberate throughout the process.” The album therefore contains “varied shades of complicated human emotion” that Carter refers to as “finding the beauty within tragedy.”

“It’s about heartbreak, and having to push forward and move on—and how challenging that is,” explains Barthel. “It’s made us the people we really are, and it’s a huge part of what this record means to us.” In addition to exploring new emotional territory, Three finds Phantogram breaking new sonic ground. The album’s “eclectic, bold songs” include “pop-inflected bangers” such as lead single, ‘You Don’t Get Me High Anymore,’ which is currently No. 9 on both the Mediabase Alternative airplay and Billboard Alternative Songs charts.

Some of the more experimental, psych-influenced pieces include ‘Run Run Blood,’ the “harrowing Steve Reich-sample-driven” ‘Barking Dog,’ and ‘Funeral Pyre.’ The latter track is a re-working of the longtime live staple, ‘Intro.’ The themes of heartbreak, anguish, and perseverance also seem perfectly at ease alongside the “darkly beautiful, cathartic ballad” ‘Destroyer,” second single ‘Same Old Blues,’ the “smoky, menacing” duet ‘You’re Mine,’ and the “icy determination” of ‘Cruel World.’

The new material brings listeners back to the sample-heavy, synth-driven Phantogram sound that has attracted its dedicated fan base. Phantogram is reaching out to its fans by touring venues in the U.S. and Canada through early November. Upcoming dates include Las Vegas (Sept. 29); San Diego (Oct. 1); the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles (Oct. 4); Portland, Ore. (Oct. 6); Seattle (Oct. 7); Vancouver, BC (Oct. 9); Denver (Oct. 12); Minneapolis (Oct. 16); Toronto (Oct. 19); Montreal (Oct. 20); Boston (Oct. 21); the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City (Oct. 22); Philadelphia (Oct. 24); Washington, DC (Oct. 25-26); Nashville (Oct. 31); Atlanta (Nov. 2); New Orleans (Nov. 3); and Dallas (Nov. 5).

Watch the official music video for ‘You Don’t Get Me High Anymore’ from the new album by Phantogram titled, Three.

As A Matter of Fact…

* Phantogram is an electronic rock duo from Greenwich, N.Y., that was founded during 2007. The members are longtime friends Josh Carter (guitar, vocals) and Sarah Barthel (keyboards, vocals), who are now based out of Saratoga Springs, New York.

* The act was originally known as Charlie Everywhere and recorded on the local independent label Sub-Bombin Records. The eponymous Phantogram debut EP was released in March 2009 and was greeted favorably thanks to the tracks ‘Mouthful of Diamonds’ and ‘When I'm Small.’

* Phantogram subsequently released the Running from the Cops EP in May 2009 on the international label BBE Records. A full-length debut followed in 2010 with Eyelid Movies. The 11-track set features songs from four previously released EPs.

* The duo returned in late 2011 with the Nightlife EP, which went to No. 1 on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart, No. 16 on the Alternative Albums chart, and No. 122 on the Billboard 200. Phantogram toured ib support of the EP and collaborated with OutKast's Big Boi on his second solo album, 2012’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours.

* In 2013, Phantogram was featured on the Flaming Lips track ‘Young Lust’ and had fan favorite, ‘When I'm Small,’ appear on the MTV adaptation of the hit U.K. show “Skins.” A four-song, self-titled EP was then released as the duo returned to upstate New York to work on new material for a second full-length album.

* The pair traveled to L.A. to put the finishing touches on Voices with producer John Hill (Santigold, M.I.A.). It was released in early 2014 via Republic and reached No. 11 on the Billboard 200, featuring the Top 5 alternative chart single, ‘Fall In Love.’

* Phantogram rekindled their relationship with Big Boi.as a side project called Big Grams. A self-titled EP featuring Skrillex and other guest artists peaked at No. 39 on the Billboard 200, and in the Top 10 of the alternative and rap album charts.

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