Album Review :
PHAO - Playing With Fire

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Artist: PHAO
Title: Playing With Fire
Release Date: 06/19/2012
Reviewer: Sara Walz


  1. Too Late
  2. Playing With Fire
  3. Know Your Name
  4. Brought Me Back
  5. Drag You Down
  6. Live To Fight
  7. Backbone
  8. Anything We Want ft. Jodi King
  9. Worth It
  10. For You ft. Hello Kelly
  11. Faking Love
  12. Something Cold

With beginnings in 2005, Canadian brothers Kevin and Mike Gnandt started PHAO honing their sound as decidedly pop-rock. PHAO released their first album Phao in 2010 and it’s only gone up from there. Now it’s 2012 and the boys are dropping their sophomore LP release, Playing With Fire, with the same pop-rock sensibilities and the same hopes that it can touch lives like their first album did, “I always want the lyrics to drip with something tangible that anyone could cling to,” says Mike, “our goal is always to write solid songs and play them convincingly.” They definitely hit the mark in writing songs that just about anyone could relate to with lyrics like “She’s a rockstar, she was so far out of reach but I knew I could reach her heart. On the surface she was perfect, hard to read but to me she was worth it,” who hasn’t pined after that special girl (or boy)? Or “So why pretend that the world’s still turning as long as you’re here when I’m on my own,” haven’t we all experienced heartache and lost love? It is definitely an album that everyone will be able to connect with on some level lyrically.

PHAO’s sound is full but the tracks where they collaborate with other artists were the most interesting tracks in my mind. “For You” featuring Hello Kelly has that poppy gang vocal sound that is so big right now and “Anything We Want” featuring Jodi King lends some ‘prettier’ vocals to the album but not so much so that it turns into a stereotypical girl ballad. Songs like “Playing With Fire” and “Backbone” really bring in the rock showcasing guitar riffs and steady drums while “Faking Love” seems to be more about the vocals with the other instruments taking more of a backseat. While the music is pretty polished the vocals are a little rougher around the edges, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but at points makes Playing With Fire feel a little unfinished.

Overall: This album is all about a topic that everyone can relate to, love. PHAO reminds us what it’s like whether we’re falling in love or falling out of love and does it with musical finesse.

RIYL: Hyland, Anberlin, Thousand Foot Krutch