Guy-girl electronic rock duo Phantogram is the pairing of childhood pals Sarah Barthels and Josh Carter, who had no intention of pursuing careers in music. They just wanted to make music they wanted to hear. Lucky for us, they have impeccable taste.
Phantogram cites as influences an eclectic batch of artists and manages to channel elements from each into their latest brew, Nightlife: tasty sampling and blippy beat-triggering (Madlib), white noise-inspired soundscapes (Sonic Youth), glossy production (Missy Elliot, thanks to Timbaland) and celestially roomy guitar arpeggios (Pink Floyd).
Barthels’s airy vocals sound like what getting hit in the face by a feather pillow with a hole in it feels (and looks) like-an initial soft impact followed by a delicate explosion, climaxing in cinematic slo-mo bliss.
For fans of: Madlib, Caribou, Thievery Corporation
Standout tracks: “Don’t Move,” “Turning into Stone”
Goes well with: chairlifts, bedroom dancing, Friday traffic
It’s been a rough winter for Biebs. Between allegations of copulating with (or getting statutorily raped by) a fan, purportedly siring a baby Biebs and hitting puberty, let’s just say his holiday plate is full.
With past hits like “Baby,” Biebs sounded young and fem, but the hooks were so damn catchy even grown men were humming them in the shower. In Under the Mistletoe-his first release since his balls dropped-he sounds more adult, though weirdly enough, more gangsta. In the chorus of the album’s lead single, “Mistletoe,” he boasts, “Amma be under the mistletoe/with you/shawty with you.”
Get it, Biebs!
Still, you gotta give JB credit. “Mistletoe” is themed around ditching his family (and Baby Jesus) to swap spit with yet another zombie-groupie. Joking aside, there are some high points. His duet with Mariah Carey, “All I Want for Christmas is You,” proves that despite adolescent vocal fluctuations, he can still sing his little chestnuts off.
For fans of: Justin Bieber
Standout tracks: “All I Want for Christmas is You,” “Mistletoe”
Goes well with: other annoying Xmas albums, lines at Old Navy, bridge jumping