Shintaro Sakamoto, the former Yura Yura Teikoku frontman does do a masterful job of channelling bossa nova, soft rock, disco, and folk-rock into a '70s pop fantasia. It's a big change from his days with that long-running psych-rock outfit, but then again, Yura Yura Teikoku were so freewheeling over their double-decade career that it seemed that Sakamoto could be capable of anything once freed from what little constraints the band put on him. How to Live with a Phantom is a resolutely solo album: Sakamoto recorded it largely by himself and even learned how to play bass so that he could write and record those parts on his own (and his basslines are a driving force here). This independent streak gives this album a simplicity and purity that transcends its influences. It is full of shimmering pastel colors and could very well be the perfect soundtrack for sitting in a hot tub or gazing at a sunset, but it's also surprisingly restrained and mercifully irony-free, considering Sakamoto's sonic palette. Sakamoto commits so completely to (seemingly) straightforward pop that it may surprise some fans, but it's this complete dedication that makes How to Live with a Phantom so winning.