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Choice Tasters Lounge w/ Jersey Dan

CD of The Week

Week of 3/09/20

    Phantogram - Ceremony (Republic)

    It's been 10 years since Phantogram hit the scene with their debut album Eyelid Movies and its stunning breakout single "When I'm Small." On their fourth LP Ceremony, they mostly play it safe with 11 new electro-pop songs that explore the common themes of light and dark. In 2016, their third album Three was a critical hit, so the expectations were high for this release. While not as compelling or rich, Ceremony does explore the depths of loss and moving forward after the suicide of singer Sarah Bethel's sister four years ago.

    Bethel's bandmate Josh Carter continues to provide a nice variety of hip-hop beats and synths on the production side, with help from producer BOOTS. Additional guitar work peppers the album effectively but leaves the listener yearning for more. 90's trip-hop duos like Portishead and Morcheeba are the obvious influences here and Phantogram usually adds their own signature sound through Barthel's seductive lyrics. Here, some of the tunes fall a little to the generic side. "Into Happiness" and "In A Spiral" are standout tracks, as well as the upbeat first cut "Dear God" which starts off with a fun 60's-era sample, which is another throwback to their earlier work which is sorely missed on Ceremony.

    All but the final track on Ceremony comes in around 3-and-a-half minutes, but the exceptional closing title track clocks in at 5:37. Set over a dreamy soundscape, Sarah gently croons about her "favorite daydream, where everybody knows me." With live guitars and drums swelling at the end, it's a beautiful conclusion to an album that is a decent representation of what Phantogram has the potential to deliver.
    Review by Dave Lindquist

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