Phantom Phunk are a new band hailing from the sunny climes of the Tampa, Florida area with a debut album, Arboles Ossific, which promises to surprise many with its seemingly effortlessly merger of pop, alternative, and progressive rock. These are ten songs that take a variety of chances and never gamble without some sort of payoff coming from their efforts. In many minds, the progressive label seems to denote that the playing and songwriting alike suffer from some sort of self-indulgence, but that isn’t the case with the songs here. Even on longer compositions, Phantom Phunk never struggle with holding the listener’s attention and never meander. Instead, even a cursory listen to the debut album will wow many with its brash confidence, talent, and cohesiveness.
The opening track “Snowy in Florida” sets an impossible to ignore tone. It comes at the listener with a wild and wooly, brawling spirit that sounds like pure chaos… but when you listen for even a minute, the design becomes clearer. This is a band that will not let the listener rest and their invigorating energy teases chaos to exhilarate the audience without ever actually running off the rails once. The album’s second song, “Sip of Wine”, takes an unexpected turn into stateliness and presents a much more mainstream musical portrait than the opener, but that never means it is any less creative. The shift in sound and approach is flawlessly carried off and there’s a darker, more somber mood working sonically that nicely contrasts with the lyrical content. “The Unheard Spirit Symphony” shares similar mainstream inclinations, but the band can’t resist tweaking listener’s expectations here. There is a much brighter pop step to this than many of the other songs on Arboles Ossific that makes it a relatively obvious choice for a single, but there are vivid progressive strains in this song compared to the preceding number.
The album’s fourth track, “Gateways”, seems to initially promise an acoustic reverie for listeners but soon segues into a straight-forward, but never plodding, stomp with a classic rock vibe and surprisingly bluesy overtones. “Looping”, much like the album’s opener, traffics in jolting tempo shifts and a slightly skewed musical character that promises listeners nothing and remains unpredictable throughout. It isn’t impossible to follow and the vocals find countless pockets in the song to deliver the goods. “Brother’s Keeper” is another song with a moody demeanor, but it also rates as one of the more delicate musical and lyrical moments found on the album.
Arboles Ossific ends with a gloriously demented one two punch of “Tommy’s Cosmic Avocado” and the finale “Jungle Crunch”. The former is the album’s centerpiece track, based on length alone, and finds Phantom Phunk fearlessly plunging into the album’s most compelling mix yet of rock, progressive textures, and a heavy dose of psychedelia. The band’s obvious humor and fun shouldn’t elude listeners either, but it is easy to miss thanks to the entrancing musical arrangement. The closer is a real shocker. Just when you think Phantom Phunk has pulled every trick they have from their bag of wonder, “Jungle Crunch” comes at you from multiple stylistic directions that are virtually impossible to describe. Highbrow Euro pop, rock, and even rap music make their presence felt here to stirring effect. If anyone tells you that young bands today, unlike the icons of yore, never take chances with their music, play them Phantom Phunk’s debut release. If that doesn’t convince them, nothing will.
by Lydia Hillenburg