Josh Carter of Phantogram once categorized the New York duo's work as "street beat, psych pop" and when you hear a track like "Nothing But Trouble" that descriptor starts to make sense. In an alternate universe you can imagine Tony Manero slowly strutting down the street to this, or a bunch of teens huddled together in a bedroom soundtracking an acid-trip with it.
But that anecdote alone can't categorize every facet of the band or the song. The droning guitar-feedback throughout the Voices cut would stop any dance move mid-stride, and when that feedback erupts into gashing noise it cuts the trip short. That's to say nothing of Sara Barthel's ghostly vocals, echoing "do you ever have the feeling that you've constantly been dreaming this is life?" Fear of existence isn't exactly the sort of thing that fuels dance floors and house parties. Barthel's fear is cruelly inverted in the chorus when she begins "seeing double." The near-panic she imbues the line with confirms one of the only things worse than thinking nothing exists is being unable to differentiate the real from the unreal. Like the image Phantogram is named for, "Nothing But Trouble" is an optical illusion. A downbeat electronic tune masking as a head-nodding number.
Phantogram's sophomore LP Voices comes out February 18 through Republic.