For a quick six songs, it’s surprising how much Phantogram have put into their Nightlife EP. For a band that less than wowed me at their Lollapalooza performance this year, I didn’t really expect much and had essentially written these two off. But as an electronic rock offering in the veins of Neon Indian or Cults, Nightlife is a fantastic here and gone sampling of what a band can do with some proper sampling and simple beats.
At the forefront here is definitely “Don’t Move,” a jumpy but catchy four minutes that showcase lead Sarah Barthel’s lighter vocals and the duo’s penchant towards samples. I found myself wishing I had the voice to sing along with Barthel, because it really gets in your head and solely got me believing in Phantogram again. Preceded by the average but energetic and enticing “16 Years” and followed up by the subtly engaging “Turning Into Stone” where other member Josh Carter jumps in, the first half really comes out strong.
Barthel’s voice isn’t going to turn many heads, but when she interacts with the electronic composition Phantogram comes out shining their best. And while the latter half of Nightlife merely continues the sounds from earlier, there still are a couple gems within. “Make a Fist” has Barthel repeating “this is the future” practically on loop, and with the maraca-style percussion at the front of the mix and a constantly building intensity the tension in this song certainly reflects the lyrical intent. The title track relies mainly on her vocals though, so with a mediocre tracking underneath it remains one of the weakest songs of the whole. And finally, “A Dark Tunnel” sounds like an over-fuzzed TV on the Radio track, which isn’t exactly a negative but its immersion as one of the six can be a bit jarring. It returns its focus on their style though by the end, winding up the longest song of this EP and outside of “Don’t Move” may be their most stylistically engaging piece.
Definitely check the Nightlife EP out if you like any form of electronic rock, from Washed Out to Toro Y Moi. You might find a new favorite, and hopefully with me you’ll now be clamoring for the two to release another LP.