It’s easy to see why the Phantogram’s debut has been one of the most hotly anticipated electronic releases of 2010. With the buzz surrounding the band’s 2009 EP, Running From the Cops, and after a knockout live performave at CMJ, comparisons can easily be made to the wild success that greeted the XX last year and Portishead’s return the year previous.
Phantogram has a few other similarities, as well, such as feminine vocals, eclectic tendencies, and slow pacing. But Phantogram lacks what those other albums had: precision. The slowness of Eyelid Moves is not the problem; more troublesome is the rhythmic messiness that plagues almost every track on the album.
Sarah Barthel sounds more like a folk singer than does Beth Gibbons or the xx’s Romy Madley Croft in that she has a folk singer’s tendency to switch up pacing at her whim. That prevents her and bandmate Josh Carter from achieving anything resembling cohesion or harmony. “Mouthful of Diamonds,” a track that promised a lot on Running From The Cops, doesn’t really deliver in terms of a breakthrough debut single, and with a couple of exceptions — “Running From The Cops” and “You Are The Ocean,” the only song not to feature Barthel as singer — most of the other tracks ultimately fail to provide much else to go on.
Phantogram has a lot of promise, and it seems counterintuive that a band with so much chemistry live can lose it in the studio. Most likely, the confidence created by the merits of their live shows resulted in sloppiness in the studio. The skills Barthel and Carter possess at creating this kind of sound with just a keyboard and guitar, as well as the two bandmate’s longtime personal chemistry, points to a promising future. Professionally, however, Eyelid Moves is something of a stumble out of the gate.