In the opening track of PHONY’s third album, At Some Point You Stop, there’s a sense of frustration, but also acceptance. “Christmas Eve Day” is a gorgeous, willowy ballad, one of the album’s quieter tracks, showing off Neil Berthier’s guitar chops and lyrical abilities. The track, and much of the album, was written during the height of the pandemic, and also after Berthier lost his father to dementia. The song encapsulates the feelings of loss he was hit with, as he explained in a statement, “I had the decision to either rise above it or let it swallow me… this is the song that came out of these emotions and situations.” “Christmas Eve Day” does just that and more, propelling Berthier onto a path of reflection that results in a cathartic collection of songs.
Performing under the name PHONY, Berthier has crafted a special blend of acoustic, punk, and hard rock all of his own, bringing to mind influences like Turnover and Elliott Smith, hitting the delicate tones of each of those artists. Many of the tracks have a lush, overwhelming rock sound, as if the music is taking over every corner of the room, but it has a dreamy undercurrent that makes the songs easy to fall into. “Wedding & Funeral Family” has a soft, shoegazey sound to it, with an implicit invitation to sway along to its breezy guitar lick. It concludes with an abrupt shift to heavier rock, an unexpected breakdown and rush of lo-fi tones, but Berthier pulls it off.
There were other factors that affected the sound of At Some Point You Stop, too, like Berthier moving from Boston to Los Angeles, and also joining punk rock veterans Joyce Manor as an auxiliary guitarist. Contrasting tracks “Summer’s Cold” and “Winter’s Warm” speak to the coastal change, his music having a more salty, sun-drenched tone. “Great White” listens like a cool, beachside bar performance, with layered guitars having a shimmery, washed out effect. Berthier’s ability to blend personal experience with vulnerable, cathartic instrumentals shines throughout the album, pushing his music even farther than his past work.
Tying the whole album together is the process of moving forward after experiencing a tremendous amount of loss and change. On album closer “Winter’s Warm,” Berthier sings, “It takes so many tries to feel a sense of home.” It’s a poignant takeaway: Our lives are constantly shifting, change will push its way in whether we want it to or not. But we can keep trying to find peace and stability in our new surroundings, a new way to feel at home.
Label: Phony Industries
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