Big Grams is the product of everyone’s (or at least my own), music discovery big break fantasy – where Big Boi, of Outkast, hears your music somehow, calls it the “Jam of the Week,” and then wants you on 3 tracks of his next record. That’s at least how it happened for Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel of New York electronic duo, Phantogram.
Describing their sound as, “street beat-psych pop,” their songs were most prominent in movies like Pitch Perfect, or commercials, where Big Boi heard the song in a pop-up add. Posting it as his “Jam of the Week,” as previously stated, Sarah Barthel saw the post and immediately contacted him, which led to them being part of, and co-producing, three tracks from Big Boi’s last record, Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors.
Big Grams, right off the bat, is about shattering expectations. If you had heard Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors tracks that they did together like “Objectum Sexuality,” “CPU,” or “Lines,” then you have a perfect idea of what Big Grams is going to sound like, but for the rest of you who didn’t jump and listen to Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors, or even know it existed, like most people, then if you’re going to listen to Big Grams, my huge piece of advice is that it’s nothing like you think it’s going to be, so don’t expect anything going in.
Like the lack of a massive Chance the Rapper influence on The Social Experiment’s Surf, Big Grams is more of a Phantogram record featuring Big Boi, though not as drastic because there is a lot of Big Boi on the record, it’s just that the presence of Josh Carter’s production and Sarah Barthel’s huge vocal choruses make the Big Boi to Phantogram ratio 1:3.
Where Big Grams succeeds is in inventiveness. Most of the EP’s tracks have a nice groove and interesting sounds/effects/auxiliary percussion that make the project very unique. Sarah Barthel’s vocals are also very well placed and produced, with her melodies and choruses being extremely catchy, which is also true of the three tracks from Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors.
Where Big Grams gets kind of off actually stems mostly from Big Boi. His presence is odd on the tracks, where I can’t decide if he fits in there. Something I thought I’d never say of Big Boi as well, but his rap vocals also aren’t too impressive. Where the record dips however, it also peaks with great choruses and tracks like “Goldmine Junkie” seem to be where everything clicks just right for a bit. Overall, Big Grams takes a lot of risks, and lucky for us, some of the gambles really pay off.
Listen via Apple Music and Spotify.