THE PHANTOM BAND-“Checkmate Savage”

I’m not quite sure what to make of The Phantom Band. Lead vocalist Duncan De Cornell has the deep, flat inflection of Matt Berninger, but the music is nothing like The National. In fact, the music is the real treasure here—the band makes unmistakably pop music, but takes the time to stretch out and jam, sometimes for several minutes without a break. It’s rare that I hear poppy jam bands. Few of the songs clock in at under five minutes, which is another indicator that these guys are into long form music. A few of these instrumental breaks get a little long, but most are fascinating and dark. In this way, the Scottish band recalls the ‘80s gothpop of Echo and the Bunnymen, and the moody aggression of Violent Femmes–but at the same time the album is cleaner, more modern, and often upbeat.

This record grows on me every time I hear it, but I still can’t put my finger on why. It feels like it is evolving, even as I listen to it. I’m never sure where it’s going from song to song, or even from verse to verse. Simply terrific, that’s how I’d sum it up.

Folk Song Oblivion

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