Phosphorescent - Muchacho - Indie Folk Rock LP

In stock
Phosphorescent - Muchacho

Label: Dead Oceans
Cat#: DOC050
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Country: US
Released: 19 Mar 2013
Genre: Rock, Folk, World, & Country
Style: Folk Rock, Indie Rock


A1 Sun, Arise! (An Invocation, An Introduction)
A2 Song For Zula
A3 Ride On / Right On
A4 Terror In The Canyons (The Wounded Master)
A5 A Charm / A Blade

B1 Muchacho's Tune
B2 A New Anhedonia
B3 The Quotidian Beasts
B4 Down To Go
B5 Sun's Arising (A Koan, An Exit)

Matthew Houck has a highly distinctive artistic voice and a refreshing, rolled-sleeves approach to his work. 2007's Pride a spare and haunting work of country, southern gospel and forlorn folk-ish drone first caused ears to swivel in Phosphorescent's direction.

He followed it with To Willie, then 2010's Here's To Taking It Easy, an enthusiastic plunge into country rock and rolling Americana. Now, his sixth album Muchacho flashes yet another color in the subtly shifting Phosphorescent spectrum.

I'm not in a position to compare this to other Phosphorescent albums, but I think Muchacho is a very good album indeed, with thoughtful, haunting and intelligent songs, beautifully arranged and - in their idiosyncratic way - very well sung. The instrumental is a rich, electronic and very beautiful. There is a mixture of the mournful and the hopeful here, and a mixture of styles, too, held together by the slightly cracked, mixed-back and multi-tracked vocals which I found very expressive and affecting.

I think that there are some things about this album which remind me of Leonard Cohen. Now, I know it sounds absolutely nothing like a Cohen album, but Matthew Houck has the same ability to write a straightforward but lovely tune and to put things into extremely evocative, sometimes elusive words. The brilliant Muchacho's Tune is a good example - haunting, self-excoriating and in search of redemption.

His new album "Muchacho" plays a different card derived from Houck's decamp to Mexico following relentess touring and exhaustion. The restless troubadour has therefore incorporated for the first time electronica in a big way into his songs and packed them full of undulating synthesiser arpeggios not least the opening shot of "Sun Arise - an invocation, an introduction" a sort of Fleet Foxes hymnal meets Aphex Twin oceanic beats and bass lines. The album is bookended by its counterpart "Sun's Arising "A Koan, an exit" essentially the same track but slightly more acoustic.

If you love spiritual harmony tunes then this will push all your buttons but frankly for this reviewer one bite of this particular cherry was already pushing it and the second portion created musical indigestion. Much better is the splendid signature track from the album "Song for Zula". Here the combination of Houck's reedy voice and slabs of synth combine in a great song underpinned by soaring pedal steel. Everything is in its right place on this track and it should be the immediate target for a listen.

More traditional Houck territory is explored on "Terror in the Canyon" a lovely alt country anthem infused with bar room heartbreak while "Down to go" multiplies this by a factor of two. It is a good old country heartbreaker infused with a mournful mariachi trumpet solo winding through its passages infusing it with a border Rio Grande atmosphere. When Houck sings "Oh, you'll spin your heartache into gold,....but it rips my heart out don't you know" you feel the wounded hurt.

"Muchacho's Tune" is a road weary pastoral tune that proves that Stephen Fry's maxim that "It would be impossible to imagine going through life without swearing, and without enjoying swearing,". More powerful is the haunting "A New Anhedonia" which is a distant cousin of "Los Angeles" and contains Houck's best vocal, likewise the seven minute plus "The Quotidian Beasts" is tortured redemptive country and the hardest rocking track on the album. The problem is that amongst all this finery are tracks which really don't add much in the memorable tunes stakes not least the very repetitive "Ride on/Right on".

As such on "Muchacho" Houck is to be applauded for his ambition but not always his execution. There is enough on here to place this album into the box marked "success" and it makes the next stage of Houck's musical evolution one well worth following.

Phosphorescent - Song for Zula

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Phosphorescent - Muchacho's Tune

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Phosphorescent - Down to Go

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More Information
Condition New
Format LP
Label Dead Oceans