Phantom Planet - The Guest (LP - Clear w/ Black Smoke)
Having Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake as your record producers is roughly the equivalent of having musical life insurance. In addition to the pair’s outstanding work together in the Latin Playboys, Froom has produced Crowded House and Suzanne Vega, to name two, while Blake has mixed or engineered seminal groups from the BoDeans to the Bangles.
That said, the danger in hooking up with such a studio-savvy pair is the sheer force of their dominance, and unless an artist has real vision, the star of the show will inevitably be the ensuing sonics, not the songs. While fledgling pop combo Phantom Planet write breezy, accessible, jangly, upbeat songs that only occasionally speak to darker themes (the mildly cynical “Turn Smile Shift Repeat” and wistful “One Ray of Sunlight”), The Guest feels maddeningly measured, as if every chiming guitar part were scripted and directed for maximum sheen. In other words, it’s toothless. If a band can’t stretch in the presence of Froom and Blake, when can they? - Kim Hughes