CD Review: Phantogram's Eyelid Movies Is a Beautiful Dream

Band: Phantogram

Album: Eyelid Movies

Label: Barsuk

Release Date: Yesterday, February 9

Rating (Skip, Stream, or Buy): Stream

Download: "When I'm Small"

Fifteen seconds into poptronica duo Phantogram's debut full-length, Eyelid Movies, I did a double take and checked to make sure I hadn't accidentally put on Metric, because the first track, "Mouthful of Diamonds," starts off resembling "Twilight Galaxy" (from Metric album Fantasies) more than a little. After the first song, though, the album establishes its own voice: one that takes its cues not just from synth-pop contemporaries Metric and the soulful, hip-hop influenced stylings of electronic band Little Dragon, but trip-hop institutions like Massive Attack and Portishead as well.

Guitarist Josh Carter and keyboardist Sarah Barthel trade off on vocals, but both tend to exercise restraint, and I'm not just referring to the light, whisper-y style that they seem to favor a little more than necessary. There's no problem with the quiet end of the spectrum, but when one of them tries to belt it out, it still seems restrained, like they could push it further but are choosing not to. Which is odd for an album that's all about contrast--between loud, choppy guitar and quiet, silky vocals, or dominant, confident vocals paired with nearly-absent instrumentals. And yet, it's impossible to pick individual components out without unraveling the whole song. Maybe that's why it's possible for the same song to, at different moments, be both transcendent and grounded, utterly chaotic and completely seamless.

The bottom line is this: I like this record, but I find myself having a hard time really bonding with it. When it ends, I find myself feeling like I've just woken up from a really vivid flying dream: stunned at the beauty I just witnessed, and yet, unable to grasp it or internalize it in any meaningful way. Because after all, a dream is just an eyelid movie.

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