With an alt-rock flare and a heart on his sleeve, PHONY is here to provide a healthy dose of introspection. With two albums already under his belt, third release ‘AT SOME POINT YOU STOP’ yet again emphasises Neil Bertheir’s penchant for pensive, gorgeously earnest songwriting. At times it feels like PHONY’s Neil Bertheir is just treading water, nearly drowning in the sensibility he manages to communicate on track – yet he always manages to keep his head above water. With its jangly charm and bucketload of sensibility, ‘AT SOME POINT YOU STOP’ is a burst of raw emotion that you can’t help but love.
The true charm of PHONY lies in how familiar the sound feels. PHONY has managed to capture a sound not unlike the emo-pop of the MySpace era, in many ways – a feeling that is quite easy to replicate, but tough to nail. Luckily, Bertheir embodies the heart of the era’s scrappy acoustic sentimentality flawlessly and authentically. Tracks like the gentle vulnerability of ‘THE MIDDLE’ and ‘Christmas Eve Day’ capture the era’s sensibility, while the bright, jangly indie-pop of ‘GREAT WHITE’ seems reminiscent of the more danceable tracks of the era.
However, there’s a definite sense of PHONY revitalising and pushing forward these familiar sounds. Each palette is given a modern twist, pushing it into a new realm – even ‘GREAT WHITE’ builds into a howl of sprechgesang, adding a sprinkling of British post-punk into the mix. Elsewhere, PHONY continues to push for a diverse, far-reaching sound in any way possible. The textures at play are impressive; echoing tech-y breakdowns and distorted vocals commanding the flow of tracks like ‘ANIMLS’, the atmospheric, slowcore-like sound totally unlike anything else on the record, while we’ve also got an all-out indie-rock banger in the form of ‘OTHERWISE’, with frazzled vocals and fuzzy, hectic guitar breakdowns.
Yet the sentiment and raw honesty always remains present, even amidst the changing palette.
‘SUMMER’S COLD’ is a perfect alt-rock charmer, drums and guitars crashing culminating in the form a
bright, bristling banger as chillingly contrasting lyrics croon out “I’d never held a gun but always
wanted one”. ‘KALEIDOSCOPE captures a Rebecca Sugar-like vulnerability, broken piano and raw
vocals making for a hazy, distant listening experience, while ‘WEDDING & FUNERAL FAMILY’ reflects
on broken families in an equally as gentle manner, its acoustic intimacy making it as if Bertheir is
performing the track live, right infront of you.
‘AT SOME POINT YOU STOP’ is a poignant confessional hiding behind gentle instrumentation. Bertheir’s vocals ooze charm, the poignant, painfully honest realities of the track hiding in plain sight. PHONY has proved himself to be a devastatingly mature all-rounder, while still managing to capture a sense of vibrant naivety.
Words: Emily Swingle