Ume’s Phantoms

Life can throw all sorts of obstacles at us. I’ve owned p90x for almost a year now, and have still managed to find all sorts of reasons not to complete it. (Today is Day 47 of attempt number god-knows-what, and that’s only thanks to some fuzzy math.) Over the summer I found myself homeless, carless and penniless (I literally had negative money) for about a week, and during that time I accomplished little more than feeding myself and my dog. I’m sure we can all think of trials we’ve faced and goals we haven’t achieved, but fortunately the members of Ume are not like us. They persevered through a broken arm, broken equipment and just being flat broke to finally release Phantoms last month.

Phantoms is tense and desperate, frenetic and vulnerable. On your first listen, it’s hard to ignore the similarities to Silversun Pickups (seriously, “Panic Switch” defined Los Angeles rock radio in the spring of 2009). It’s the distorted but melodic guitars and that breathy female lead singer so low in the mix that you can’t quite make out everything she says. They’re almost dead ringers – if you like Silversun Pickups, you’ll love Ume. But the more you listen to Phantoms, the more you hear. There’s the discordant intervals in the lead guitar during “The Push,” the pounding toms in the verses of album opener “Rubicon,” or Lauren Larson’s emotive vocals on “Hurricane II” – lacking lyrics in many places – that recall Emily Haines of Metric.

Ume - Captive

To my mind, “Captive” is the best single on the album. It just dives right in, starting almost as if you’ve switched into the middle of the song. From there it offers a straightforward, propelling, catchy track whose hook is “I’m captive now without you.” It taps into that vulnerability that we all feel when confronted with daunting obstacles or circumstances. But Larson moves on to the refrain of “breaking through,” suggesting that it is possible to rise above. And with Phantoms, Ume have led the way.

You can purchase Phantoms on CD or vinyl from the Modern Outsider Records online store, or via iTunes.