I Used to Love H.E.R.: Sarah Barthel (Phantogram)

The 45th installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential or favorite hip-hop albums and songs, comes from Sarah Barthel, keyboardist and singer of electronic-pop duo Phantogram, whose debut LP, Eyelid Movies, was released in February on Barsuk.

Barthel and bandmate Josh Carter just this week released a video for the great track, Mouthful of Diamonds.

I recently became aware of Barthel’s interest in hip-hop, and here she tells us what drew her to the genre and then dishes on one of her favorite hip-hop albums.

In college was where I discovered my love for Hip-Hop. I spent a lot of my time downloading it off of the internet. It was fascinating to me how easy it was to find new music and I had to get as much of it as I could. When I wasn’t working, I spent a lot of my time searching for old underground hip-hop music. Since I was unable to get full albums, I would download any song I could find. My library was filled with crappy versions of songs with confusing titles like {_.mp3_track03*~~Fl4yp}}>. In translation, this one track I found was a golden egg of delightfulness. It was A Tribe Called Quest song. Specifically, Electric Relaxation off of Midnight Marauders. I didn’t know this at the time because of the squirrelly title, but the one thing I knew was that it was the coolest song I had ever heard. I can’t say I lived under a rock before this moment, but it seemed like it at the time. After all, Greenwich, NY, didn’t have the most diverse music scene going on. After discovering this song, I had a mission – collect Q-Tip’s and A Tribe Called Quest’s entire discography. I managed to get my hands on a few – Midnight Marauders, The Anthology and Q-Tip’s Amplified. The tracks on these records changed the way I looked at music and to this day they instantly excite me. I was unaware at the time, but one of our favorite beat makers (J Dilla) produced a lot of the tracks.

elzhi - the prefaceElzhi, The Preface (prod. by Black Milk)
(Fat Beats, 2008)

This album blows my mind! I love the raw, lo-fi, dirty Detroit-influenced swagger and production on this record. It’s extremely captivating and inspiring. It’s hard to be able to combine all of these elements together without it sounding messy and confusing, but The Preface pulls it off perfectly. Although the record incorporates a lot of chopped-up old soul samples, the beats and arrangements also sound fresh and futuristic. The juxtaposition between the two elements is what I love most about this record. Tracks like Guessing Game, The Leak and Colors will definitely go down as being my favorite tracks from the past decade.

2 thoughts on “I Used to Love H.E.R.: Sarah Barthel (Phantogram)”

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