Phantogram – 1. (n) An optical illusion where a 2D image is distorted so as to appear 3D 2. (n) A Saratoga Springs band you need to hear

Entertainment Column
Written by Nathan Mattise

It’s a badge of honor for any media outlet within any informational genre to break a story or predict the next big thing. In the music realm this often becomes who can write about the next big band first (For instance…we get it Stereogum. You liked Vampire Weekend really early on. VW’s album came out in Jan. 2008 and if you search Stereogum they return 133 post results for “Vampire Weekend.” That means they’ve written about Vampire Weekend nearly 1 in every 3 days this past year).

Only time will tell if this post qualifies but, regardless of their future success or failure, I can’t get this band off my mind. They had me up and dancing when they opened for Ra Ra Riot, I can’t stop listening to the handful of recordings I have (check it out after the jump) and there’s potential for them to blow up since they’re headed for SXSW with a new record deal this month.

Ladies and gentleman, meet Phantogram.

I saw them for the first time at the aforementioned Ra Ra Riot show in Geneva, N.Y. The venue was an opera house so I fully expected to be in my seat until rushing the stage for the headliners. I was in the middle of planning a route to the stage with friends when I noticed the Mac Book synth lines had my feet noticeably moving. High, airy female vocals made my head nod as they floated above the hard beats created through the electronica CPU , rhythmic keys and a guitarist who knows how to riff with an Andrew Bird-style loop effect. Phantogram didn’t take up much physical space on stage (being a trio with only two humans after all) but they demanded audience attention through visible performance energy instead of size – a band right after the headliners’ heart.

I was sold on them immediately after the performance which says a lot considering they garnered attention at a Ra Ra Riot show in CNY. We tried to book them at SU and began searching for any gig they might have within two hours. Naturally I had to acquire their stuff any way I could and after repeated listening it’s held up.

Songs like “Mouthful of Diamonds,” “When I Was Small,” and “Running From The Cops” are quickly rising up my iTunes Most Played list. They feature heavy electronic hip-hop intros with a funk-rock feel that might be able to appease fans of both Daft Punk (dance-techno acts) and The Shins (laid back indie rock with some edge). The tracks are unique pieces of music that can function just as well at a hip basement party as they could as background music during a study session. It’s music that can be relaxing one moment and completely consuming of your body in the next.

I won’t say the band is perfect. I’ve only seem them as an opener so I’m not sure what their full library of tunes sounds like and I think they can become even more engaging by adding a live drummer. However they deserve more buzz than the lone Tripwire post from above that a Google search returns. As they self-advertise, Phantogram has proven to be an experience that is, “hypnotically engaging both visually and musically.” I hope for their sake folks at SXSW will feel the same (and I hope for my sake I can someday say “I told you so”).

(Links today from Tripwire, YouTube, Vimeo, Sub-Bombin’ Records, MySpace Music and Stereogum.)

Anyone want to catch these guys before the summer? E-mail me pronto. They need to be in Syracuse or Scranton soon.


Filed under Columns, Entertainment

3 responses to “Phantogram – 1. (n) An optical illusion where a 2D image is distorted so as to appear 3D 2. (n) A Saratoga Springs band you need to hear

  1. daniel heffernan

    I think they are great
    they should get their tunes up on itunes
    they sound a bit like chairlift
    who did a song for the recent ipod advertisement
    it would be great to hear them play in the uk

    • totally agree daniel – i think it’s mental that more online sources haven’t picked up on them yet. perhaps they just need to take a month or so in nyc or london to build buzz (or a small cross country trip). whatever it is, i hope there’s at least one more central new york show in their future.

  2. Yeah they are great. I saw them open for Ra Ra Riot at my school, Colgate University, a day or two before the Geneva show. Their beats were absolutely phat, and they brought some students up on stage to dance. Also, check out Colgate University band Earthman Embassy – a hard working college band that’s played all around Hamilton and twice in Syracuse. check out to hear tracks and see videos of catchy, keyboard-infected alt rock/indie/pop.

    I know its a shameless plug, but you guys seem like you are on the pulse of whats hip around ‘cuse.

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