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The deeply emotional electronic pop of Phantogram revolves around Sarah Barthel's powerful vocals, which tower over their insistent, hip-hop-inspired left-field pop sound that's built on booming beats, washes of synths, and the occasional jagged guitar riff. Their early records, like 2010's Eyelid Movies, had a murky, trip hop approach that didn't last long. Starting with 2014's Voices they transitioned to an area-sized sound that ended up on the radio, in video games and in commercials and lead to them teaming with OutKast's Big Boi to form Big Grams in 2015, and breaking into the Top Ten on the Billboard albums chart with 2016's Voices. Founded in 2007 and based in Saratoga Springs, New York, Phantogram is comprised of longtime friends Josh Carter (guitar, vocals) and Sarah Barthel (keyboards, vocals), who originally hail from the nearby small town of Greenwich, New York. Originally known as Charlie Everywhere and associated with the local independent label Sub-Bombin Records, the duo released the eponymous Phantogram EP in March 2009 and sparked widespread interest with two songs in particular, "Mouthful of Diamonds" and "When I'm Small." The band subsequently released the Running from the Cops EP in May 2009 on BBE Records. Phantogram finally made their full-length album debut with Eyelid Movies (2010), an 11-track LP featuring the four previously released EP songs "Mouthful of Diamonds," "When I'm Small," "Running from the Cops," and "Bloody Palms." The album was released internationally by BBE Records, domestically by Barsuk Records, and on vinyl by Ghostly International. The duo returned in late 2011 with the Nightlife EP, which sold enough to hit the lower reaches of the U.S. charts. They continued to tour heavily but found the time to collaborate with OutKast's Big Boi on his second album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours (2012), and also featured on the Flaming Lips track "Young Lust" in 2013. Phantogram's success continued in 2013 when fan favorite "When I'm Small" appeared on the MTV adaptation of the hit U.K. show Skins and they released a four-song, self-titled EP. Toward the end of the year, they returned to Upstate New York and began to write and record their second full-length album. The pair traveled to L.A. to put the finishing touches on the record, titled Voices, with producer John Hill (Santigold, M.I.A.). It was released by their new label, Republic, in early 2014. After the band toured and did promotional appearances for the record -- which almost reached the Billboard Top Ten, stalling out at a rather impressive number 11 -- they rekindled their relationship with Big Boi. The trio hit the studio and emerged with a new name, Big Grams, and a self-titled EP. Featuring guests like Skrillex and Run the Jewels, the album reached number 38 on the Billboard charts. The duo enjoyed the process of collaboration so much that they chose for the first time to invite outside musicians to participate in the sessions for Phantogram's third album. Featuring Darby Cicci of the Antlers, superstar session drummer Matt Chamberlain, Dan Wilson of Semisonic fame, and Ricky Reed (aka Wallpaper), Three was released by Republic in October 2016. The album was their highest charting to date, peaking at number nine on the Billboard 200. Two years later, they released "Someday" b/w "Saturday," with proceeds donated to suicide prevention. The duo released three singles in 2019: "Into Happiness," "Mister Impossible," and "In a Spiral"; all three were collected on their 2020 album Ceremony. Recorded in studios and at home in Los Angeles, the songs documented the duo's personal struggles and eventual journey to a better place. It was released in early 2020 by Republic.
© Jason Birchmeier & Scott Kerr /TiVo


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