For Phantom Handshakes and for many of us unable to go outdoors to meet friends and family, summer has been shaded by a cloud of gloom. The New York dream pop duo distills these emotions and more in their latest album No More Summer Songs. The sounds of summer can still be heard the band’s soft bright jangle and sweltering shoegaze, yet there’s a hint of hurt and melancholy embedded within. Nevertheless, it’s in these moments of catharsis that their songs truly shine.
From the vulnerable opening bars of “I Worried”, Phantom Handshakes reaches out with a dreamy, lo-fi aesthetic and sparks of glowing charm. The band’s seamless transition between anxiety and beauty is what kept me pressing repeat in this album. Their vocals are hazy enough that it’s easy to insert your experiences between moments of hurt and elevation, yet diving into the lyrics reveals a depth that makes it easier to connect with Federica Tassano and Matt Sklar’s rolling emotions.
Some of my favorites include “Cricket Songs”, where wistful melodies and glimmering guitars dance and glide over Federica’s worries and feelings of loneliness. “The sky is blue and high / the sun is beating down / merciless.” In this song summer becomes an antagonist, carrying with it negative memories and well-kept emotions as Tassano begs for the rain to come once again. In “A Secret Life” the band sets aside the melancholy for some romantic twee pop. It’s a song full of fuzzy emotions, with birds and butterflies fluttering over the air as you feel head-over-heels for love.
“Skin” is another track of note, wrapped with an otherworldly feel that reaches out to the cosmos, this one is perfect for an intimate night of stargazing. Other highlights include “All That Could Burn”, a bright and jangly tune with a fiery dose of dissonance. It feels like your emotions are in a tug of war, reinforced by the fiery imagery of its lyrics that plays against its deceptively cool harmonies. All of this culminates in “Sweet Dry Raw”, where the themes and motifs of the album converge into a bittersweet haze.
Which is a word that describes this whole album. Phantom Handshakes’ presents a world that is very bittersweet, but there is plenty of both to be had and it’s only a matter of where your focus and perspective lies. As for me, I’ll enjoy this album and pair its saccharine tones with a hot cup of coffee.