Phosphorescent “Muchacho” — One of the Best of 2013

18 Apr

Phosphorescent

The sixth full CD from Alabama-born singer/songwriter Matthew Houck — aka Phosphorescent — is close to a masterpiece. Deftly weaving multiple genres — indie folk with a touch of trip hop, barroom blues rock, alt country, and even inspirational hymnals — every track on Muchacho bores into your soul.

The lyrics, often vocalized with a rawness that hints at the desperation Houck felt when he left his Brooklyn home and ended up in Mexico writing these songs, document a life in disarray. Themes range from determination, “See, Honey, I am not some broken thing/I do not lay here in the dark waiting for thee” (from “Song for Zula”) to resignation “See I was slow to understand/This river’s bigger than I am/It’s running faster than I can, though Lord I tried” (from “Muchacho’s Tune,” Explicit).

The musicianship is excellent throughout. In addition to the expected instrumentation for indie folk-rock, Houck employs synthesizer, organ and an outstanding horn section. Vocals range from plaintive and raw, to uplifting and gospel-like in the choruses.

There are several tracks I can’t get out of my head. My favorite, “Song for Zula,” is indie folk underscored with pulsing trip hop beats. Its circular construction plays over and over on a run or long bike ride. In “Down to Go,” Houck confronts the aching reality of lost love and wonders how to go on, while “spinning [his] heartaches into gold.” And “Quotidian Beasts” is an epic song, with a pounding piano, horns and scorching guitar that rise and fall after each verse.

A wide array of critics are hailing this as one of the best new releases of 2013, and I agree. Hit up SoundCloud or YouTube and give it a listen — then get it for your collection. And leave a comment letting me know what you think.Muchacho 

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