Three and a half years is a long time to wait for a Phantom Band record. The Wants, a dark, brooding beast, was unleashed on listeners still punch-drunk from the sextet’s barnstorming debut Checkmate Savage just a year earlier. But the gestation period has done the Phantoms good: Strange Friend is their most refined and coherent album to date. It’s lighter and poppier than its predecessor and more musically akin to the debut, but their penchant to experiment remains.
Shimmering, pulsating opener The Wind that Cried the World, with its squelching electro intro and wordless chorus sets the tone. There are synth splashes all over this, with the band happy to court the sort of hooks they may have tossed away for being too simple before. The gorgeous, folky Atacama and soaring (Invisible) Friends steal the show on a record that has sound potential to soundtrack the summer ahead. [Finbarr Bermingham]