Phosphorescent – Muchacho [album review]

by Woody on March 19, 2013


A few years back when the slam dunk contest still mattered, Vince Carter threw down a thunderous dunk and declared the contest over to the cameras. If such a contest existed for music, Matthew Houck could mimic Carter as I just don’t see a better album coming out this year. With Muchacho, Houck has taken elements of his prior catalog, blended them together and mixed in hints of synths that heighten the music.

The lead single, Song For Zula, has a gorgeous synth line that buoys the song as Houck opens his heart to us. As Oz and I took in his set at The San Jose at SXSW, I remarked to him, “there are not too many people who could pull that off and sound genuine.” Houck’s voice continues to be the glue that keeps his music together, no matter what genre he dips his toes into.

The bookends of Muchacho are Sun, Arise! (An Invocation, An Introduction) and Sun’s Arising (A Koan, An Exit). Both tunes are reminiscent of Pride’s freak folk manner. Sun, Arise! welcomes you in and has a bouncy synth line that sounds out of place at first. Sun’s Arising is the perfect closing; like a good glass of port after a great meal. It provides closure on an album that deserves nothing less. On their own, the two songs would be good. As the beginning and end of Muchacho, they take on new meaning.

After Here’s To Taking It Easy and endless touring, Houck disappeared down to a small town in Mexico and considered not making another Phosphorescent album. I’m sure the lazy daily routine began to agree with him after the ups and downs of life on the road. I surmise that was the genesis of The Quotidian Beasts, a seven minute rocker that sunk its teeth into me the first time I listened and hasn’t let go since. The song outlines Houck’s struggles with the daily routine, whether is for him or not. It starts with the following verse:

Well you woke me up early now and you drew me up bad
And you should be coming up this year, got me real glad
Well I start to discover oceans, started to last
And the beast came upon me, I guess it wasn’t so bad

Muchacho’s Tune is a slow twangy number where Houck sings of redemption. The synth giving a layer of rhythm beneath the tune as Houck opens up to the listeners. The chorus is:

Like the shepherd to the lamb
Like the wave onto the sand
I fixed myself up to come and be with you

As someone is who is fanatical about his music, it gives me chills when you see a band or artist reach such a lofty pinnacle; especially one that you have spent so much time with. I wouldn’t bet against Phosphorescent making a better album, but if this turns out to be his defining piece, he should be as proud as could be. I have had it for a month and I can say without question, it is an album that will live with me forever.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

oz March 19, 2013 at 10:39 am

Agreed. A masterpiece album that continues to get better and better, especially after seeing the songs performed live. The songs that didn’t stand out on the album for me at first but blew me away at SXSW were A New Anhedonia and The Quotidian Beasts.

Aden April 24, 2013 at 4:21 am

Hey guys,
this is a bit random i know, but i’m hoping you might be able to help me. I’m travelling through Europe (from Australia) with my girlfriend, and i’m planning on proposing to her while we’re away. So basically, we’re heading to a Phosphorescent gig in Paris (a huge love of ours) and i’ve been trying to get in contact with the band or Matthew to maybe see if i could get up on stage and make it a bit special. I’ve emailed his management a while back, but haven’t heard back. So i’m wondering if you have any suggestions, as i don’t really know where to start. I love you guys here, and have followed hearya for ages, any thoughts or theories would be greatly appreciated. Much love, and shine on,

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