When it comes to a bad breakup, it’s too easy to wallow at the bottom. But thanks to Madi Diaz, there’s a way to dance it out.
Enter Phantom, an album L.A. Weekly deems “the most danceable breakup album ever.” From its creative concept to its clever clicks that only amplify its sullen but sophisticated awareness, you’re out of your chair dancing, arms flailing and feet stepping with Phantom’s first beat. A smile’s forming, sweat’s dripping and endorphins are pumping. You’re too busy thinking about jumping to the beat to remember who it was that broke your heart. And that’s exactly where “Tomorrow,” the album’s first track hooks you in—not looking back but moving forward.
From Phantom’s initial note, an electric-current backs Diaz’s bright, bold and lush re-envisioned sunshine-synth sonic sound, those soaring high notes becoming bone-chilling when effortlessly belted. It’s a natural progression from Diaz’s more Americana, folk-rooted pop she’s expanded upon since relocating from the collaborative songwriting mecca Nashville to Los Angeles two years ago as a way to challenge herself to stray away from her usual suspects and style.
Looking for prance instead of pity, the self-aware Diaz has crafted catchy choruses and carves out a style all her own. Before track one is over, we know she’s one of us. “I’m over this feeling/I gotta believe it/Never look back/Never look back/Tomorrow/Tomorrow,” taking the word to heart as an interior dialogue all too familiar to all of us. Whether we do it, that’s another question.
The smartly produced Phantom maintains its synth sting throughout as badass beats pulse through the lush, bright pop. In “Mess,” the percussion setup perfectly amplifies the running theme: an army of empathy behind her in each rhythmic repetition as she sings, “You’re gone/I’m drinking ‘cause I lost my keys/I’m broke, locked out of my house/Can you stop calling my phone and playing with me?”
In the second half of the album, Diaz really proves how mature her songwriting muscles have toned with chilling lines as the battleground-like banter continues, “Don’t tell me all your secret/It’s kinder to keep it” in “Ghost Rider.” The track—as audibly stunning as it is amazingly crafted—paints such a vivid image of Diaz: her dark long hair blowing in a black breeze atop a warrior horse awaiting to ride her former fumbling fears right into the forgotten forest.
Things turn serious when Diaz crosses over in the introspective “The Other Side”—and she nails it, lending more longing as she slowly lures us in as she with her words, “An unfamiliar face/Different shape of eyes/So you look away every single time/One more look/One more lie goes closer to the other side,” that are sung against an eerie organy throb, each pulse closer and closer to an adrenal climax.
Diaz’s most genius moment comes in “Pictures,” a track where she returns to the same space the disintegration developed in. “Light in the hallway/You cast a shadow/Clothes in the bedroom/You left a suitcase open/The curtain/I’m still burning when you go to turn your back.” Her must vulnerable vocal follows with rich vibratos in the bare bones song, “Wide.”
In its final track, “Ashes,” you realize the pulsating pops of the phantom feeling have fizzled. We’re now alone with Diaz’s most intimate feelings and recollections of loss, introspect and her unwavering hopefulness for what’s next. Any glowing sign of any single ember of this lingering feeling has set.
Phantom becomes your go-to for revelation and reinforced refuge in times of a broken spirit or heart. Diaz’s voice—an instrument of its own—re-introduce her as a catchy contemporary any catty crooner should keep her claws sharpened for. Diaz is perfection, here to stay.