I’m bitter toward the state of my residence for a variety of reasons, and a few of them are music-related.
Florida is notorious for not getting larger tours because of the commitment it takes to travel central and south Florida. If a band decides they are going to play Florida venues, there are only two options: play north Florida (Jacksonville or Tallahassee) and be on their way, or play the whole state, including Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, and/or Tampa.
This is frustrating for a few reasons. We often will miss out entirely on so-called “national” tours because of the dedication it takes to tour the whole state. It means that many bands will just… never play here. For instance, Grizzly Bear is playing here in Tampa tomorrow night for what I understand to be their first time ever. That’s a band with a touring schedule that could be described as relentless, and they not one time have been here. I was shocked last week when the new Sigur Rós dates were released and they included a date here in Tampa at the House of the Bulls (the newly renovated USF Sun Dome, where I graduated last month, god bless it).
I mean, even when we do get tours, we might not get the whole thing. That Grizzly Bear tour in its national version is with The xx, who are skipping my fair state. The upcoming Nine Inch Nails tour this fall is with either Explosions in the Sky or Godspeed You! Black Emperor – both of which are skipping out, though thankfully being replaced by the incomparable Gary Numan of The Cars.
And it’s not for lack of trying. I get it. Florida is America’s penis, home to “Florida Man” and what I’m calling an Urban Reality game (as opposed to an urban myth): “Florida or Germany?” in which the location for ‘News of the Weird’ stories is either of my two homelands. I know, I got it bad.
It’s still frustrating.
I say all that to say this: when a band or tour that I want to see does come here, and for one reason or another I am inhibited from attending, that frustration level is understandably even higher.
In 2011, today’s band Phantogram, along with Com Truise and The Glitch Mob, played a show at one of the medium-sized clubs here in town. It was a late show, and one that was being presented by a promoter whose shows I had not attended. Basically, I stood in line with my gingerlass for almost 90 minutes before we realized that we… just weren’t getting in. Hard to say what the problem was, because no one at the door actually had anything to relay to us. It wasn’t sold out, but those in line were not being allowed in.
This was a real bummer on account of that tour being so damn good. Any of the 3 bands could have headlined and pulled it off. Since then, I have been able to see Com Truise live, but neither of the other two bands.
Also since that time period, the fair maiden half of Phantogram (Sarah Barthel) has recorded for Big Boi on his 2012 release Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. I wrote on my 2012 year end list that her appearance alongside Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano made that record.
Alongside her bandmate Josh Carter, the duo known as Phantogram have only released one full length album: 2009’s Eyelid Movies. It’s a gorgeous record, blending a melange of styles to create a unique take on indie electronic pop, including new wave, chillwave, psychedelia, and even hip-hop. Fuzzy keyboards, vinyl pop noises, and some vocoder action all add to the indie atmosphere of the album.
Carter and Barthel trade vocal duties throughout, though the female lead vocal is most prominent. She sings in a wispy, delicate way, powering through choruses and the occasional bridge.
Eyelid Movies is at its best, in my opinion, when its rugged street beats are front and center. Tracks like the single “When I’m Small,” “Running From the Cops” and especially the dope-as-hell “Futuristic Casket” all shine.
Coming up on summer (in other parts of the country, that is – it’s already summer here in the Penis State), there’s enough tracks here to help fill up your “traveling to the preferred body of water where I live with the windows down” playlist.
Thematically, Eyelid Movies is pretty bleak. There’s a lot of hurt and loss and abandonment, and none of it is hidden behind wordy veils; rather, Barthel’s words are straightforward and to the point. On “Let Me Go,” she sings:
This golden glow,
is not happiness.
It’s the dust that you kicked in my face
before saying goodbye.
But, truth be told, she could be singing every embarrassing detail of my childhood and I’d still listen. Her voice is on some other worldly ethereal level that makes it impossible not to indulge.
The one track to deviate from the rest of the album is the closer, “10,000 Claps” – a beautiful and dark piano-driven effort, with Barthel’s haunting vocals stealing the show. Cool way to end the album. Very Portishead at times.
And since this is the one and only time I get to write about them this year, I encourage you to check out their equally good EP released in 2011, Nightlife.
From their first (and as yet only) full length Eyelid Movies, this is Phantogram’s “Turn It Off” –
Standout tracks: “When I’m Small” and “As Far As I Can See”
Weakest track: Not really- but if you’re not into their slower moving tunes, “10,000 Claps” trudges a bit. It’s still a beautiful song, just different from the rest of the album.
RIYL: Chillwave influenced by hip-hop. Washed Out, Neon Indian, Beth Gibbons’ voice!