Phantogram’s Three is a rare genus of breakup album. Like an inverted Blood on the Tracks, Sea Change or Body Talk, the LP doesn’t lament the remains of a failed relationship, but celebrates the liberating bloodlust of snuffing one. “I’m putting you out of your misery / Cause darling you’re dragging me down,” Sarah Barthel sings on “Cruel World.” “I wish I could say that I’m sorry / But I’m over that, now I’m taking you out.” Harsh.
That literalism expands into a metaphorical flood of empowerment (and loneliness?) in another key track, “Destroyer,” whose chorus boasts “I can kill you all / And finally be alone / Destroyer, destroyer.” The duo—including guitarist/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Josh Carter—ends the album with “Calling All,” with the key chant “we’ve all got a little bit of ho in us.” That’s a story if ever there was one.
Phantogram’s live show nicely embodies that arc of sexual and emotional release; for the first couple songs, a black mesh screen falls between audience and band. Swirling, rotating vector art and brambles of light project on the divider’s surface. The band members’ silhouettes occasionally blow up like spectral shadow puppets. After four tracks, the screen falls, tension dissipates and Barthel stands triumphant in black leather thigh-high boots and neon yellow biker gloves. And as her attire would allude, she positively dominates that damn stage.
The group’s show in Columbus, OH at Express Live! winded through the Phantogram oeuvre of electro, indie and hip-hop, where slick beats mesh against vintage samples of blues from the annals of history. Highlights included more aggressive latter cuts (“You Don’t Get Me High Anymore,” “You’re Mine”) laced in with the buoyant chill of “When I’m Small” and “Turning Into Stone.” Phantogram is currently on tour and should definitely be seen if visiting a venue near you. Check out our photos of the concert in the gallery above.