Dual vocals bring spirited pop, stripped down new wave, and galloping rock into the two-thousand-and-tens.”
Steel Phantoms are Aaron Harris (drum,vocals), Yos Munro (keyboard/vocals), Adam Fisher (bass), and Jesse Newkirk (guitar). Harris and Munro are high school friends who first played together in their hometown of Pittsburgh before both relocating to Montreal to study music at McGill University, hunkering down in the eye of the storm that was the media’s endless fascination with everything Montreal in the mid-2000s. Harris in particular experienced the Canuck craze firsthand, taking over drumming duties in Islands in the wake of founding member Jaime Thompson’s sudden departure from the band in 2006. Several tours and a few years later, Harris and Munro relocated yet again with the promise of a new musical project. Now, named after a roller coaster in Pittsburgh, utilizing many of the same pop idiosyncracies that defined the Montreal music scene, and headquartered amidst the endless hustle of Brooklyn, Steel Phantoms is very much a product of the past ten years of the duo’s friendship and collaboration.
The songs are a wonderful blend of spiky pop music that shifts and careens from start to finish in a very focused and mature way, unlocking melodies and progressions you probably didn’t expect but are damn glad got your attention. It’s a mix of the sweet and sour, the brash and the playful, a sinewy rope of rhythmic muscle allowing lighter pop flourishes to ebb and flow throughout; think Wolf Parade meets Leonard Bernstein and the picture starts to make sense. In turn, the two trade vocals from song to song in a way that accentuates these varying components of their music, Munro’s baritone croon recalling Jonathan Richman’s earnest swagger and Harris’s kerosene-edged melodies flagging the sinister vibes running beneath.