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CD of The Week

Week of 6/22/20

    Phantom Planet - Devastator (Gong / ADA Worldwide)

    Forever known for their early '00s hit single "California" (aka the theme to The OC), Phantom Planet went on hiatus in 2009 after over a decade of making music together. The band formed when the members were still in high school and had been going non-stop ever since, so a break was certainly understandable. A one-off reunion gig led to fully coming back together and making new music together, which brings us to Devastator, the first Phantom Planet record in 12 years.

    The record opens with the chugging groove of "Balisong," a reworking of a solo track frontman Alex Greenwald had put out a few years back and the first taste of new material we got late last year. Their current single "Only One" ruminates on if someone or something is truly your "only one," while "Party Animal" bashes out over the best hook/turn of phrase on Devastator, with a chorus of "part animal/part party animal."

    The themes on much of Devastator are clearly inspired by Greenwald's split with actress Brie Larson after seven years. But thankfully, these aren't angry breakup songs… we've heard a million of those over the years. They're primarily about wrestling with loneliness and how to move forward, rather than rehashing one's past. "As Time Moves On" purposefully looks ahead after a breakup on top of a retro pop vibe that would fit perfectly on an '80s movie soundtrack.

    Somewhere in the middle, the album meanders a bit. Phantom Planet made their name with their bright power-poppy songs on The Guest¸ then played with some more jagged guitar sounds on their self-titled album and 2008's Raise the Dead. For a good bit of Devastator, the music remains fairly mellow and stripped back. Musically, "Dear Dead End" and "Waiting for the Lights to Change" definitely evoke the vibe of late nights spent aimlessly walking, driving and pondering.

    It all wraps up with the quiet-loud-quiet dynamics of closer "ROTK" ("Return of the King," as in Lord of the Rings, presumably), where Greenwald gets past the emotions he'd been processing for most of the record to triumphantly move on with life.

    Devastator might be a bit quieter than fans may have hoped for, but after 11 years apart, you should expect more than driving down the 101 to right back where they started from.

    Tune in this Friday at 3:30pm or 9:30pm for an interview with Phantom Planet's Alex Greenwald, along with a few live tracks. (See schedule for more replay times) Also, vote for this week's Top 11 @ 11 and enter to win a digital download of Devastator.
    Review by Joey O.

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