Thursday, September 9, 2010

Eyelid Movies - Phantogram

Eyelid Movies

Barsuk / Ghostly Records.

SCQ Rating: 88%

July 2010: My girlfriend and I were wandering Ottawa’s market in search of good sushi when we heard live music playing nearby. As we approached the stage at the dead-end of York Street expecting to find a local talent strumming away to no one, the duo’s deep beats and terse electronic beats sent shockwaves through the corridor of these downtown buildings. The song, I’d later discover, was ‘When I’m Small’ but I knew straightaway the band was Phantogram, a girl/boy duo (Sarah D. Barthel and Joshua M. Carter) I’d read of but never listened to. We watched their soundcheck, a pulverizing yet proficient mix of electronics and guitar grooves, found our sushi place and then waited around to catch their entire set again later on that rainy evening.

After such an eye-opening show, I heartily attempted to de-hype my first listen to Eyelid Movies for fear the debut wouldn’t wield the same power or hooks… but here we are. Eyelid Movies lives up to that deft performance, removing all of the random onlookers but keeping the overcast weather with a collection of gritty and soft-sung tunes. The couplet of ‘Mouthful Of Diamonds’ and ‘When I’m Small’ opens the disc like an electronic-pop singles compilation, moving from wound-up dance to gritty trip-hop anthems. These tracks are irrefutable examples of the band's instant gratification, but Phantogram’s best arguably arrives further into Eyelid Movies, where the duo punch-up their beats over more brooding compositions. Although boasting an uptempo beat, ‘Turn It Off’ is a surprisingly reflective piece, with Barthel and Carter harmonizing over a stunning chorus whereas ‘You Are The Ocean’ makes a bid for ballad of the year with a chorus that nearly approaches shoegaze in its wide-open guitar-work.

Its aesthetic, of trip-hop beats, samples, and pristine guitar, is relentless yet shape-shifts with startling versatility, emoting sentimental choruses (‘All Dried Up’) without lessening the grip established by hard-hitting urban tracks (‘Running From the Cops’, ‘Bloody Palms’). With nary a weak track in the bunch, Eyelid Movies deserves recognition as one of the year’s finest debuts. Oh, and word of advice: if you discover that Phantogram are due to play in your city, do not miss it.

Phantogram - Turn It Off by TNastee

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