Phantom Wave – ‘Bonfire Secrets’

Brooklyn-based band Phantom Wave unveil a captivating arsenal of shoegaze and dreamy pop mystique on their new album Bonfire Secrets. From bursts of textured guitar intensity to serene pop hooks, the production throughout is consistently engaging and climactic.

The band — who released their first EP, Sixer, in 2018 and followed it up with debut album Wilds in 2021 — continue to enthrall, despite hardships involved during the album’s creative process. Guitarist and lead vocalist Ian Carpenter was hospitalized for two months following an apartment fire, though recovery came after and the trio — also comprising drummer Rachel Fischer and bassist Yanek Che — now release a standout success with their sophomore album, Bonfire Secrets.

“Chimera” opens with a sense of awakening, as lyrical references to sunrises aligning with a mellow guitar jangling. A blast of warming distortion follows, as the vocals pick up from the dreamy pop character into a more alt-rock vigor. The track’s dynamic composure, from lusher introspection to gripping doses of darker guitar snarls, maintains a stellar momentum; the two-minute turn is especially compelling, with its heavy guitar slabs and confident vocal ardency. Bonfire Secrets kicks off in satiating form with “Chimera.”

A more patiently unfolding beauty graces the subsequent “Shook,” reminding of Wild Nothing in its glistening pace. Erupting guitar sequences emerge sporadically, as the vocals maintain a debonair confidence with shades of The Go-Betweens. “Astral” also succeeds in a similarly spacey, jangly realm. Swirling guitars craft a gorgeous, hypnotic appeal amidst an understated vocal daze, hastening in pace as the three-minute turn approaches; a dazzling array of twinkling guitar lingering and warming distortion lead into a riveting finale from there.

Also exemplary of the band’s various strengths, “Burning Clocks” casts a late-night spell with its post-punk rhythmic pulses and vocal tone, showing shades of The Chameleons UK and Psychedelic Furs. Blaring guitars emanate into the second minute, culminating in an assortment of soaring vocal layers in the anthemic conclusion. The whirring guitar-laden intensity combines with the elongated vocal passion for a spine-tingling, replay-inducing captivation.

“First Light” provides ample entrancement in its album finale role, mesmerizing with its calming vocals and pit-pattering percussive gentleness; the aesthetic reminds of Spiritualized, particularly in its eventual ascent to clanging distorted guitar intensity. Its lyrics are especially affirming, conveying a journey of self-discovery while urging to “ride on and breathe,” in embracing an unknown. Bonfire Secrets is a memorable success, from the immediacy of the opening “Chimera” to the gradually developing charm of “First Light.”

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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