Phantogram has never been known to confront things quietly. The electronic rock duo comprised of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter present their songs as loud and blaring, all while revealing harsh truths regarding their relationships.
Their fourth album, Ceremony, takes a different approach. Following the loss of her sister, Barthel looks vaguely into the concept of death, grieving, and moving forward. The traumatic feelings come through in Ceremony’s music, launching the listener into a hurricane of sound with its title track, and providing disorientating vocals on the sinister “Mister Impossible.”
It can get overwhelming at times, and almost gets lost with the message that Barthel and Carter are trying to convey. There’s the occasional oasis of calm, like on standout track “Glowing” where we get to really appreciate Barthel’s impressive, controlled vocals and hear the emotion behind the lyrics. “All I needed was for time to pass away,” Barthel murmurs, sounding fed up with being alone in her thoughts. “But it still keeps going and going and going.”
Ceremony isn’t perfect, but its urgency in confronting unspoken feelings is what makes it interesting and emotionally investing.