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Pop/Rock - Released October 21, 2003 | Epic - Daylight


Pop/Rock - Released March 1, 2004 | Epic

Phantom Planet's self-titled third album finds the group turning its backs on the manicured pop of The Guest, which spawned the hit (and theme song for Fox TV's The O.C.) "California," in favor of a sound influenced by garagey New York bands like the Strokes. Alex Greenwald's formerly earnest croon is now a surly, slurry sneer, and the rest of the band follows suit, adopting a scuzzy sound as effortlessly as donning battered jean jackets and skinny ties. Phantom Planet's production is particularly striking, and strange: its cheap, compressed sound seems like it should be the work of someone like Strokes producer Gordon Raphael, but it's actually sonic mastermind Dave Fridmann behind the knobs. Why the band used one of rock's most intricate producers to emulate one of its most basic is something of a mystery, but Fridmann brings as much care to making Phantom Planet sound like they recorded this in the garage as he does to making other bands sound like they recorded their music on other planets. It's difficult to determine just how savvy the band's garage rock makeover is, but Phantom Planet isn't a bad fusion of noisy rock and the kind of music they were doing before. It works especially well when the band hangs on to the melodic sensibilities that made The Guest's best moments memorable: "The Happy Ending" kick starts the album with equal amounts of pummeling drums and bittersweetly ragged vocals; "1st Things 1st" is a model of aggressive, economical melody; and "The Meantime" rivals almost anything that appeared on Room on Fire. But while songs like "Badd Business" and "Jabberjaw" might be tighter and rock harder than their previous work, it's at the price of the melodies that used to be the band's strongest asset. These melodies return on the second half of Phantom Planet, which is nearly as pretty and atmospheric as the first half is raucous and dense. This sequencing tends to work against the album -- keeping the loud side loud and the quiet side quiet results in an album that is, on first listen, alternately over- and underwhelming. Nevertheless, both Fridmann and the band have some of their best moments on "By the Bed," "After Hours," and "Knowitall," all of which have as much impact, if not more, than the loudest songs and reaffirm that Phantom Planet really are a pop band at heart. The late-blooming acclaim for Guster and Fountains of Wayne, and of course, Phantom Planet's own success with "California" shows that there's always a place for well-crafted, unapologetically pop music. But this willfully noisy, messy album is ultimately just as contrived as the band's glossier sound was, and the shift from The Guest's winsome pop -- which was also a shift from their debut's heavily Weezer-influenced sound -- makes it difficult to get a grip on the band. Their O.C. fan base will probably miss their previous sound, and those who follow the garage rock bands may not accept Phantom Planet as that kind of group. Phantom Planet is by no means a bad album, but it is a slightly strange and frustrating one. © Heather Phares /TiVo

Pop/Rock - Released November 16, 2004 | Epic - Daylight


Pop/Rock - Released April 4, 2006 | Epic - Daylight


Pop/Rock - Released September 7, 2004 | Epic - Daylight


Alternative & Indie - Released June 18, 2020 | Gong Records

Phantom Planet's first album in over a decade, 2020's Tony Berg-produced Devastator, is a buoyant yet lyrically acidic production that finds them balancing the effusive '70s-style AM and power pop of their early work with their more angular post-punk leanings. It's a sound that harks back to their 2002 breakthrough hit, "California." An infectious paean to West Coast manifest destiny that gained wider buzz as the theme song to the teen drama The O.C., the song's mantra of "California here we come, right back where we started from," feels particularly prescient in regards to Devastator, an album that works as both a return to the band's roots and a fresh start. From the record title to the overall tone of raw emotionality, one could easily describe Devastator as a "breakup" album. In fact, while the group did not technically call it quits, they did go on an extended hiatus in 2008 following the release of Raise the Dead. During this period, singer Alex Greenwald recorded a solo album and collaborated on projects with Mark Ronson, Jenny Lewis, and others. He also became engaged to and ultimately split from actress Brie Larson -- a fact that feels intrinsically connected to Devastator, but which is never explicitly detailed. What we do get is a nuanced and harmonically textured album that evokes the wry and biting '70s work of artists like Harry Nilsson, Jeff Lynne, and Todd Rundgren -- Baroque pop melodicists drunk on heartbreak and dreams. On the dusky "Leave a Little Light On," Greenwald colors a vignette about loneliness with warm Beach Boys-esque harmonies and clever chamber-pop architecture. Conversely, on "Only One," he sets a desolate and heartsick night drive to a laid-back, reggae-inflected groove and twangy guitar accents. Elsewhere, we get the sad-eyed acoustic ballad "Dear Dead End," the orchestral tearjerker "Gold Body Spray," and the minor-key Kurt Weill-meets-ABBA number "Waiting for the Lights to Change." That said, there are even darker shades to Devastator, as on "Balisong," a menacing, slow-burn glitter-rock track in which Greenwald's butterfly knife is perhaps both a metaphor for self-protection and a cutting symbol of romantic betrayal. More sanguine is "Time Moves On," a heart-wrenching mid-tempo anthem built around a shimmering low-end guitar riff and '80s keyboard flourish against which Greenwald poignantly celebrates the end of a relationship. He sings "When we first met, we'd already been severed. Love's quick with goodbyes, but with us forever." With Devastator, Phantom Planet have crafted an album that deftly undercuts their hooky West Coast optimism with a bitterly cloudy beach bum sadness. You can almost hear the bright pop sound of their youth echoed back through the hazy din of waves returning to shore; California here we come, right back where we started from indeed. © Matt Collar /TiVo

Rock - Released January 1, 1998 | Geffen

For a debut album from a relatively young band (most of the members are still teenagers), Phantom Planet Is Missing is very accomplished and appealing. While the hooks aren't particularly strong, the band makes up for it with youthful exuberance and very colorful instrumentation -- the music is upbeat and synthesized flourishes abound. Instead of taking the route that many other younger alternative rock bands take (Silverchair's grunge or Eve 6's punk), Phantom Planet walk the line between pop and alternative and manage to carve out their own unique sound -- a rarity for younger alternative bands. Unfortunately, the album didn't sell nearly as well as albums by Silverchair or Eve 6, but it did manage to build a cult following and the single "So I Fall Again" was featured on the soundtrack to the TV series Sabrina the Teenage Witch. "Down in a Second" and "I Was Better Off" are also highlights on this promising debut. © Jason Damas /TiVo

Alternative & Indie - Released April 14, 2008 | Fueled By Ramen - Atlantic

Phantom Planet discovered the joys of rockin' out on their third, self-titled album, which felt designed to move them as far away from the piano-driven pop of The Guest as they could get. Four years later, they keep the volume turned up on Raise the Dead, also their first album for Fueled by Ramen. Their anthemic, rowdy sound makes a lot more sense on this label than it did on their previous imprints, and Phantom Planet just seem more comfortable all around on Raise the Dead. Their outbursts are more natural here than they were on Phantom Planet, especially on "Raise the Dead," where they feel completely in control of how the song moves from brisk acoustic guitars to a huge swell of strings and guitars. And even if they still don't go near The Guest's wistful ballad territory -- "Quarantine" bares its broken heart with an edge, and "I Don't Mind" is more bouncy than brooding -- Phantom Planet balance their brash side with their pop roots with a lot more flair. "Do the Panic"'s rough-and-tumble keyboards and guitars end up falling into place perfectly, "Ship Lost at Sea"'s piston-like drums are pushy and cute at the same time, and "Dropped" feels like a more polished sequel to Phantom Planet's "Bad Business." "Leave Yourself for Somebody Else" is Raise the Dead's purest pop moment, a bracing three minutes' worth of hooks, harmonies, and impatient rhythms. As comfortable as the band sounds on Raise the Dead, it isn't perfect: the chorus of children on "Leader" teeters between charming and cloying, and a few of the later songs, including "Demon Daughters" and "Geronimo," cross the line from loud and rambunctious to just plain screechy. Even with a few stumbles, Raise the Dead is among Phantom Planet's most enjoyable albums. © Heather Phares /TiVo

Pop/Rock - Released February 26, 2001 | Epic - Daylight

While an increasing number of up-and-coming artists are making a name for themselves by blurring the lines between rock, metal, rap, soul, dance, country, and about any other musical style you can think of, Phantom Planet is sticking with rock & roll. Pop/rock, if you want to split hairs, but isn't that basically redundant? Ironically, with the defection of so many artists to hybrid genres, The Guest comes off sounding incredibly fresh. It's hard to think of too many contemporary bands that are making such unapologetically sunny, pop-tinged rock & roll. Take the punk out of Weezer, the kitsch out of Fountains of Wayne, or the Strokes out of the garage, and you come pretty close. The album opens strong with four infectiously upbeat tracks that are singalongs waiting to happen. The songs are well-crafted and impressively mature for a band whose members are scarcely legal drinking age. The only misstep is the schmaltzy "Anthem," in which lead singer Alex Greenwald muses about writing a song that the entire planet falls in love with. The rest of the album flirts with some electronic touches, but never deviates too far from the original course. Greenwald's vocals remain heartfelt and confident throughout, although he seems to be channeling Thom Yorke in his quieter moments, such as "Turn Smile Shift Repeat." Phantom Planet distinguishes themselves by not being afraid to make a lush, textured album that avoids sounding glossy or overproduced. The use of strings and keyboards is subtle but effective. Indeed, the first single and opening track "California" employs a vital piano hook to hold the song together. What holds the entire record together, however, is Phantom Planet's knack for feel-good tunes with melodies that bounce into your head and stay there. © Mark Vanderhoff /TiVo