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Generally favorable reviews - based on 23 Critics What's this?

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8.4

Universal acclaim- based on 49 Ratings

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  • Summary: The second full-length release for the electronic-rock duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter was produced by John Hill.
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Top Track

Fall in Love
Love, it wasn't love to recognize To see of was the reason you feel sick inside Fall, in me I'll let you breathe 'Cause you were fallin', I'm sorry,... See the rest of the song lyrics
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 23
  2. Negative: 0 out of 23
  1. Entertainment Weekly
    Feb 20, 2014
    91
    [Songs like} "Fall in Love" and "Howling at the Moon" sound downright ferocious without sacrificing the gauzy, lovely ache at Voices' center. [21 Feb 2014, p.64]
  2. Feb 18, 2014
    85
    Voices is one of the most exciting sad albums I’ve encountered in a while. And it triumphs in that space in between.
  3. Feb 18, 2014
    80
    With their newest album the New York based duo have turned from a promising indie-rock group into a full-fledged, ass kicking, genre-mashing superhero team.
  4. Feb 18, 2014
    70
    Voices is filled with catchy, emotion-packed songs that will sound great booming out of radio speakers, soundtracking late nights spent alone and wondering, and anytime some really powerful modern pop is needed.
  5. Feb 18, 2014
    70
    Their latest album, Voices, showcases more maturity and focus than their previous work.
  6. 67
    Slighting a group for sounding “too much like themselves” is a difficult proposition, but the moments where the songwriting or musical performances defy and exceed expectations demonstrate that the true talent of the group may lay somewhere beyond their comfort zone.
  7. Feb 18, 2014
    50
    Unfortunately, Carter enjoys a much larger presence this time around, and as the two largely split vocal duties, Voices rarely has a chance to establish any momentum before getting tripped up by its own inconsistency.

See all 23 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 12
  2. Negative: 0 out of 12
  1. Sep 4, 2015
    10
    After the success of their glorious debut, 'Eyelid Movies', with its effortless blending of a multitude of genres, beautiful vocals andAfter the success of their glorious debut, 'Eyelid Movies', with its effortless blending of a multitude of genres, beautiful vocals and impeccable production, Sarah and Josh's much anticipated return packs such a punch as to be one of the most exciting and original albums of recent years. It is clear that the duo have spent their time carefully annotating their strengths and experimenting within vast sonic horizons, which have resulted in some absolutely stunning compositions of great scope and ambition. It is extremely difficult to find fault in 'Voices', which looks as much to the trip-hop scene of Portishead and Massive Attack as to the screeching guitars and experimental electronics of OK-Computer-era Radiohead. That being said, what Phantogram show more than anything in their sophomore effort is absolute originality. And the effect is breath-taking.

    1. Nothing But Trouble - 10/10 - A truly mesmerising four minutes packed with constant excitement and the ability to suddenly transcend into something completely different but equally invigorating. The infectious hip-hop beats carried throughout the track build up to an explosive climax of screeching guitar. 'Nothing But Trouble' is refreshing, enthralling and stands completely on its own in the world of modern alternative music.
    2. Black Out Days - 10/10 - A lyrical masterpiece expertly layered with throbbing synths, pulsating beats and some of vocalist Barthel's strongest vocals to date. The arrangements work beautifully, from start to finish. 'Black Out Days' possesses dark, twisted suspense, and dynamics on a stratospheric scale.
    3. Fall In Love - 10/10 - Initially disregarded by Carter as an unremarkable work in progress, through Barthel's encouragement, this elegant blend of samples from a Motown classic with ultra-modern electro-beats works surprisingly well. An absolute stand-out, which deservedly brought the duo widespread attention and acclaim. Truly brilliant.
    4. Never Going Home - 9/10 - Here, we as listeners find ourselves transfixed as one of 'Voices' more dramatically sudden and unexpected changes in tempo and genre emerges out of the dramatic void created at the closing of 'Fall In Love'. Carter's vocals prove a welcome, diverting change here, and the presence of The Flaming Lips' Steven Drozd is clear and distinguishable on such a contrasting track.
    5. The Day You Died - 9.5/10 - Barthel returns on this spellbinding fifth track, with its heartfelt choruses and welcome addition of melodic guitar, this popular number combines clever arrangements with soaring vocals and excellent production.
    6. Howling at the Moon - 9/10 - With potential to be in contention for the greatest track on the entire album, the song's poor opening is all that holds it back. When it flourishes, from the first chorus onwards, Howling at the Moon is excellent. It captivates with its edgy sampling of horror soundtracks, many layers of electronics, guitar and a brilliant beat. Just before the final chorus, the song reaches its remarkable apex.
    7. Bad Dreams - 10/10 - Consistency is key in this track, as we progress into the second half of the album. Driven by more faultless vocals and alt-rock guitars, this refreshing track doesn't have to explode to stand out. The closing instrumental sequence is particularly effective, and would be right at home on the soundtrack of an indie-horror movie or television series.
    8. Bill Murray - 10/10 - Quite simply, one of my favourite songs since 2000. Sorrowful, gorgeously delivered vocals from Barthel carry this delicate track with its fusion of subtle sampling and soothing guitar melodies. A track which shouldn't be missed or overlooked simply because of its pared-back instrumentation in contrast to the more energetic opening tracks. Lovely.
    9. I Don't Blame You - 8.5/10 - Here, despite their welcome, meaningful presence in 'Never Going Home', Carter's vocals suffer slightly, and the track as a whole, though dynamic and undoubtedly epic in its choruses, feels slightly unnecessary, particularly its obscure opening and closing. Nevertheless, like each of the other tracks on the album, the arrangements are faultless.
    10 Celebrating Nothing - 9.5/10 - Quality increases again on this effortlessly beautiful penultimate album track, with its guitar-driven choruses and divine vocals from Barthel. The song is more classically catchy than some others on 'Voices', and equally effective.
    11. My Only Friend - 10/10 - It would be a real struggle to find a more poignant closing track for 'Voices', and it's clear the duo have placed a great deal of care into tastefully closing an almost-perfect sophomore effort. The dramatic building of the initially softer 'My Only Friend', with emotion carved into every individual word, is admirable. And Sarah Barthel's vocal performance is yet again outstanding.

    It's a stunning return for a duo who have truly distinguished themselves from the rest of the crowd. Outstanding. I can't wait to hear more.
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  2. Feb 18, 2014
    10
    I, like many people first discovered this amazing duo when I heard their song "Fall In Love" on satellite radio. It was such a different yetI, like many people first discovered this amazing duo when I heard their song "Fall In Love" on satellite radio. It was such a different yet familiar and beautiful sound. The song intrigued me enough to look up the group. The female lead, Sarah Barthel has one of the sexiest voices in music today. My friend told me about their Nightlife EP and the sleeper hit from it "Don't Move" and I was even more intrigued. So look into their debut album "Eyelid Movies" and preview their lead single from that album, "When I'm Small" which is recently becoming the theme song for Gillette fusion commercials. Then I listened to the Nightlife EP a few times and liked it, but only two songs really excited me. I decided to order their debut album to prepare me for the release of this album. I ended up loving the album so much. I was also surprised to know that the male part of the group, Josh Carter, who produces the music too, also sings very well and sometimes sing raps hauntingly. At this time the song "Bill Murray" from this album was released and I couldn't have been more excited. Now the album is finally here, and after a few listens, I can say with confidence that this is one of my favorite albums now. Here is a track by track review.

    1. Nothing But Trouble: This song was also released prior to the albums release. I immediately compared the industrial sound of it to Nine Inch Nails but with female vocals. The vocals took some getting used to at first because I was so used to the delicious vocals from "Fall in Love". The song seriously gets better with multiple listens. A great song to add to your work out routine and for cardio. A great industrial start to the album. 9.5/10
    2. Black Out Days: Another song released prior to the album. This was more of the beautiful sound heard from the debut album but more advanced. Very beautiful. The sounds heard in the song are just delicious. Josh Carter did extra great work on this track with production. The chorus was annoying at first to me, but it got infectious with multiple listens. Another good song to add to your work out. 9.5/10
    3. Fall In Love: This song. The song that had heads turning and many converted into instant fans. This song is also getting really popular and might be their first big hit, which I hope happens! I know it will! The production combined with the perfectly infectious vocals. I can't even muster how perfect this song is. The chorus is amazing and never gets old. Good song for almost any setting whether you're single or taken. ALSO another good work out song. 11.5/10
    4. Never Going Home: My friend told me this song reminded him of Phil Collins before I got to listen to it. That is a good comparison. Very relaxing. Definitely a song to listen to at night while taking in the scene wherever you are. The lyrics sound sad but uplifting at the same time. The vocals are by the male part of the group, who shows off more of his singing ability. There are parts where he and Sarah sing together and it works very well. Another song that gets better with each listen. This could be a single. Beautiful song. 10/10
    5. The Day You Died: The guitars hooked me in right away. The chorus was okay for me for Phantogram standards. It is good, but it'll take a few listens for me to get used to it. But the guitars are immediately infectious which is the reason I keep coming back to this song. Sarah does show off her sexy moans in the song though. Also good for your work out. 9/10
    6. Howling At The Moon: The beginning mislead me. But then the beat comes in. A great beat which is what Phantogram is known for. Mixing hip hop/trip hop with beautiful vocals. The song was about to be miss for me vocally at first before the chorus kicked it. Very pumping and infectious guitar led chorus! I'll still have to get used to the verses. They are good, but the chorus is the true show stealer of this song. Again, good for the work out! 9.5/10
    7. Bad Dreams: I really liked the verses of the song right away. Then I heard the chorus. At first I thought it was very annoying. But after many listens, I actually really liked the chorus. Especially with the production of the song. I mostly said it was annoying at first just to annoy my friend who said he didn't like the previous song. But I actually can't deny how sexy the chorus is! Josh also creeps in the background with his 'twirling' and infectious guitars as well. 9.5/10
    8. Bill Murray: I honestly didn't think it was possible to produce such beautiful and sexy music as heard on this song. The production, the vocals, the lyrics. Everything is perfect in this song. The choir sound of the chorus almost reminds me of the soundtrack to "Home Alone". I know that sounds corny, but if you go watch Home Alone right now and listen to the chorus of this song you'll know what I mean! This might be one of the greatest songs ever written or recorded. If officially released as a single I strongly demand this as a Grammy contender for Song/Record of the Year. (Wishful thinking). 15/10
    9. I Don't Blame You: Its impossible to follow a song like "Bill Murray". But this song does a good job trying. Another song vocally lead by Josh. The production is solid as always and the chorus is catchy. At first I thought the chorus was too stale, but it actually gets infectious and stuck in your head! Truthfully its really hard to listen to this song and fully appreciate it right after the masterpiece song that preceded it! Still a great song though. The production is very unique too! 9.5/10
    10. Celebrating Nothing: The title sounds like it would be a depressing song. But this very upbeat. The beat and synths flow together so well. The vocals and lyrics have radio potential all over it. Probably the most 80s retro sounding song on the album! Good song. 9/10
    11. My Only Friend: After the mostly perfect album, I was expecting not much from the closer. But this was actually a great great and haunting yet beautiful song. The song builds up with its great production. Not as good a closer as "10,000 Claps" from the debut album, but still a great song. Very textured. I just think "Bill Murray" would've been the best choice to end the album with perfectly. But I'm not complaining. Still a great end to the album which leaves me wanting more! 9.5/10

    So this album was consistently great. There are no fillers. Each song is a gem. The replay value is high. After listening to the album a few times in order, I find the best thing to do is to put the album on shuffle to give it more variety. It works. This album is just pure and good modern music. I expect to see this album winning awards as well. Lets just hope they don' wait 5 more years to release another one! If you like good indie electronic music with great vocals and nice hip hop inspired beats, then this is a great album for you. If you want something new and different and great, then this album is great for you. If you like good music, then this album is...you guessed it. Worth a purchase!
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  3. Feb 19, 2014
    10
    I don't give a 10 rating often. This album surely deserves a 10 rating.

    There is no filler, it is hard to decipher what is a hit single and
    I don't give a 10 rating often. This album surely deserves a 10 rating.

    There is no filler, it is hard to decipher what is a hit single and what could be the next. Of course the 3rd track is a boisterous track that demands attention. A real treat, far more colorful and dynamic than their previous work and significantly ahead of the pack of other recent Electro-Pop, Synth-Rock groups out there (ie. Warpaint, Chvrches, Glasser, XX, etc.). I really believe this album packs such a punch that it easily outdoes everyone else with more energy, color, dynamics and unpredictable production. If you've been following their slow ascension than you will definitely be pleased with this next 'step' and if you are new to Phantogram than you may want to dig into their previous EP and LP.

    It is funny if you read just about every review of this album the critic won't have anything negative to say yet they will sum up the album with a mid-range rating. I don't understand. Must reviews that I have read are written with gorgeous praise yet the number will be a 6 or 7 or so.

    And opposed to Duke_Challenger's review below I would add that there has been a large amount of "evolution" between their albums, it has been a slow progression but each album/ep has continued to perfect their sound and grow both dynamically larger and more subtle.
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  4. Apr 14, 2016
    7
    I'm glad I stumbled upon Phantogram. Their music is immediately engaging without sounding too cliche, and I think they bring a nice creativeI'm glad I stumbled upon Phantogram. Their music is immediately engaging without sounding too cliche, and I think they bring a nice creative use of texture to electropop, while so many other acts just use a ton of synthesizers. The opening song is a perfect example of why I love their sound. The distorted guitars, trip hop beats, and fragile vocals make for a perfect combo, and overall that whole style makes this album such a treat to listen to. Now, there are a few weaker tracks on here, so it's certainly not a perfect album, but there are some truly great moments and awesome hooks that really have me looking forward to hearing what they do next.

    Standout tracks: Nothing But Trouble, Black Out Days, The Day You Died, Howling at the Moon
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  5. Mar 30, 2014
    7
    A very good, new group that I just discovered. I love their sound, their vibe. I don't even think there is one song that I didn't like off ofA very good, new group that I just discovered. I love their sound, their vibe. I don't even think there is one song that I didn't like off of this album! I liked each and everyone, and none more than the other. It is a hard sound to express into emotions. Another listen, and I will have it down! Expand
  6. Oct 12, 2014
    6
    Though musical acts consisting of one man and one woman—one Adam (producer) and one Eve (lead vocals), ahem—are sprouting out in the indie-popThough musical acts consisting of one man and one woman—one Adam (producer) and one Eve (lead vocals), ahem—are sprouting out in the indie-pop industry like poison ivy on an abandoned farmland, latching onto whatever audience they come upon, and selling out like cigarettes at a Kentuckian Pilot station—if you're from Kentucky, you'll understand what I mean—Phantogram have fortunately managed to develop and establish a signature sound that's actually quite unique and even successful without sounding the least bit insincere. It's no Crystal Castles as far as ambition goes, but it certainly earned them an audience that's not there for a millisecond and gone in another. What does that mean for their second studio album Voices?

    Phantogram—Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter—didn't actually capture my attention until years after their 2009 debut album Eyelid Movies came out. But once a friend of mine introduced me to "Futuristic Casket", I immediately searched them up on Spotify and felt a warmth in their melancholy melodies, sample-heavy production, and Barthel's safe yet soothing voice. It's not as if I became a complete believer in their material and praised it to the highest Heavens of them all. It's not revolutionary and it's not at Arcade Fire's height of hype, but that's exactly why it caught my eye for at least a moment: Phantogram aren't trying to break ground on a surface of music that's already been broken to pieces, they're just creating very, very endearing art that seems sincere to them. That means a lot to me and I wouldn't want anything more.

    Voices on the other hand, it's an, albeit faulty, attempt at building on top of their previous endearments and simultaneously making it more accessible. That's not a crime on their behalf—in a market dominated by duos and trios like Crystal Castles, CHVRCHES, Haim, and many more, why not take advantage of that dominance and cash in on it yourself? Lead single "Fall in Love" differs from CHVRCHES' 2012 breakout single "The Mother We Share" in sound, but it's simultaneously established and effective on both paper and presentation. The Flaming Lips' Steven Drozd contributes to "Never Going Home" to craft one of the record's most memorable tracks, an indie-rock anthem to Phantogram's fullest.

    But where Voices falls, it's not dramatic more than it is disappointing. Though it's natural to eliminate and re-establish certain qualities into an artist's creation over time, Phantogram have removed a fair percentage of their charm by relying less on samples and more on glamorizing themselves to fit in with the 'cool' kids and the 'weird' kids. Truth is, however, not a lot of Voices is all that memorable. It's quiet and instead of ingraining itself into your eardrums with the same effectiveness of their last album or lead single "Fall in Love", it insists on layering itself into the back of your mind, but leaving no room in the forefront for the listener to latch to. It's not shoegazing when your melodies become dull halfway through and Barthel's limited vocal range certainly doesn't have the strength to support it up. None of Voices sounds even remotely below-mediocre at worst and there are good songs here; the glimmers of Barthel and Carter's maturity and ever-growing sound haven't vanished. My issue with Voices isn't that negative and it's actually pretty biased and simple: it just could've been better.
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  7. Feb 21, 2014
    4
    What can I say, I questioned the direction of the band after hearing the preceding EP to the album, and my concerns were validated afterWhat can I say, I questioned the direction of the band after hearing the preceding EP to the album, and my concerns were validated after getting through the last track. While their debut isn't a masterpiece by any means, it's got at least a few catchy tracks that seem to be totally lacking on this album. I get their are going for a different approach, trying to move past the superficial pop of their debut, but unfortunately at least for me they don't pull it off well. For the couple decent tracks I've heard on Voices there's a few bland, filler tracks to follow them up. I still love Phantogram, but I'm not the type of fan that's going to blindly love their work when it doesn't live up to expectations. When I saw the reviews I was genuinely surprised at the positive scores. To each his own of course, but in my opinion Phantogram has hit a sophomore slump with their second record. Expand

See all 12 User Reviews