PHONY is the musical moniker of Neil Berthier, the multi-instrumentalist who put out his debut record Songs You’ll Never Sing last year. He’s already got a follow-up called Knock Yourself Out coming out on August 28 – but funnily enough it was recorded before his debut, which explains why it’s such a quick turn around.
It also explains why PHONY is less than enthusiastic about turning his mind back to these songs, as they’re old, but moreover they were recorded in a trying set of circumstances that saw him make the 1225 mile drive from his then-home in New Orleans to the recording studio in Philadelphia six times in two weeks. Not to mention the fact that he was heartbroken. Nevertheless, as previous single “Waffle House” suggested and new single “Turnstile Effect” proves, they’re songs very worthy of release. About “Turnstile Effect” PHONY says:
“This was written at a really terrible time in my life. It was wildly hot in New Orleans that summer, and I was drinking like a fish. My roommate has this acoustic guitar and I remember randomly picking it up and this song just came out.”
That imposing combination of heat and depression can be heard in the downcast opening segment of “Turnstile Effect”, where voice and lilting acoustic guitar are joined by brush-stick percussion. Whisper-singing about his misgivings, PHONY invites us in close; “Everywhere now looks the same / I wanna be where no one knows my name.” But, just when you feel like you want to put an arm around the singer and try to cheer him up a bit, his anger comes frothing out and “Turnstile Effect” turns into an angst-ridden rocker. PHONY is then on the front foot, attacking his former partner, stoking the fire that consumed their relationship, and burning himself along with it: “I hate to say ‘I love you’ because it hurts.” It’s a painful way to punctuate this outpouring, but no doubt effective.