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This week, SportsAlcohol.com writers are recounting the best music of 2014. Today’s Track Marks focus on individual songs from albums that didn’t make our collective top five, but did appear on our individual best-album ballots.
Full disclosure: I am in the tank for Phantogram. Even though they hail from Greenwich, NY my hometown of Saratoga Springs has claimed them as their own (same county). We don’t have much of a music scene to speak of, so we get excited every time a local act breaks out onto the national stage. It’s only happened a few times in my life.
I am also in the tank for high energy track ones. “Nothing But Trouble,” the leadoff song to Voices, Phantogram’s sophomore full-length, is maybe my favorite one of the year.
The beat shows the influence of their touring with a live band to great effect. The bass line uses their standard fuzzed-out synth sound, but it moves a little more than usual. The drums go beyond standard loops to include fills you don’t often hear in songs like these. While there’s a lot of growth in their songwriting, the lyrics feature psychedelic abstractions that would feel as comfortable in early Phantogram cuts like “Mouthful of Diamonds” as it would in a classic Guided By Voices tune.
As always, Sara Barthel’s vocals are an ethereal eye in the storm, but her partner in crime Josh Carter is in the spotlight a little more than usual (especially when they play this song live). His underutilized voice provides backing in the second half of the song and his guitar closes everything out with a rare solo. The way it breaks out of nowhere in a pretty dance heavy track, it’s almost Prince-like.
This all comes together in one song. If reductive, lazy critics are still calling Phantogram trip-hop, they should probably listen to “Nothing But Trouble” a few more times.