Phantogram Exceed Expectations

February 15th, 2010

Phantogram – Mercury Lounge – February 12, 2010

Phantogram - Mercury Lounge - February 12, 2010
It’s an exciting experience to see a new band live. Will the group sound like the music on their record? How will they present their material? Does their appearance match their sound? While these questions—and others—color the perception of a concert, they are ultimately just subtext to the performance. The visceral feeling from the first chord, note, or sound leaves an indelible impression. At Phantogram’s sold-out show at Mercury Lounge on Friday, it was the initial beat of “As Far as I Can See” that silenced doubt and stuck in the crowd’s collective conscience.

Phantogram is the moniker for guitarist Josh Carter and keyboardist Sarah Barthel’s band. Hailing from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., the duo recently released their debut album, Eyelid Movies. In one sense, their sound feels familiar, evoking comparisons to such contemporaries as Beach House and Portishead. But, as their album demonstrates, they also have a unique depth and variety to their music, which sets them apart. On tracks like “When I’m Small,” elements of hip-hop and electronic rock fuse together with Barthel’s soft, beautiful vocals for spectacular results.

Once Carter and Barthel took the stage, following Junk Culture’s set, the crowd swelled in size. How droves of people heard about this rising band is unknown, but judging from the attendance, word is spreading rapidly. In addition to their setup of guitar, keyboard and samplers, Phantogram provided a foot-pedal-activated strobe light and an artistic visual display projected onto a sheet. The accompaniment made for a tremendously dynamic and engaging show. During “All Dried Up,” night shots of a barren highway complemented the dark, serene tune. And so in both sound and appearance, Phantogram exceeded expectations. —Jared Levy

Photos courtesy of Diana Wong |