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Phantogram

PhantogramVoices
Universal/Republic

Phantogram aren’t shy about holding up their black mirror, its warts-and-all reflections cast against ice-cold yet inviting electro-pop beats. Their new album, Voices, lets a few more cracks of light in. It boasts a broader range and more exposed vocals than 2011’s debut Eyelid Moves, though the duo tend to produce their best songs when they stick to their established sound.

Recent single, Fall In Love, is heady perfection, though it’s not as optimistic as its title suggests; in the chorus, the word ‘love’ is barely audible from Sarah Barthel and her emphasis on ‘falling’ leads to a faltering apology. Josh Carter is more open with his feelings on the following track Never Going Home, with the power-ballad chorus, ‘If this is love, I’m never going home’ set against a shimmering, widescreen wall of sound.

A mid-album wobble exposes an identity crisis via the Beach House balladry of Bad Dreams and Flaming Lips lip-service on I Don’t Blame You. Things soon perk up when the band get ground down again, with Celebrating Nothing stubbornly finding euphoria in anxiety and My Only Friend making for a heart-rending closing track. Voices is the sound of a band still discovering what their strengths and weaknesses are, but maintaining a steady upward trajectory while they do so.

CHRIS GIRDLER