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4.8 out of 5 stars24
4.8 out of 5 stars
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Up until now Matthew Houck the guiding light behind the Phosphorescent moniker has specialised in warm slices of road weary Americana not least 2010's rollicking "Here's to taking it easy" and of course his earlier tribute to a great country outlaw "To Willie". There has always been in Houck however an inner Neil Young screaming to experiment and push the envelope. On "Taking it easy" hidden amongst the country rumble was "Los Angeles" a huge rolling beast of a song which really was a meeting of rustic Alabama and experimental Brooklyn combining Houck's own geographical journey from rural to urban. 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 download. 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.
0Comment9 of 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
I came to this album as a Phosphorescent novice on the recommendation of a friend. I have plainly been missing out by not hearing him sooner.

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 backing is 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. I don't want to push the comparison too far because things like the vocals and overall sound here and on Old Ideas, for example, couldn't be more different but I do think he shares some of Cohen's genius for conjuring insight and feeling in a song. I mean that as the highest praise.

This was a surprising and delightful discovery for me, and I'm now off to seek out some of Phosphorescent's other work. It's a really fine album and warmly recommended.
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on 11 May 2013
Matthew Haouck delivers a beautifully crafted album from start to finish. Filled with gentle layers of guitar, drums and synth topped off with his amazing voice. An album crafted for Sunday mornings. A highlight of the year.
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on 23 April 2013
Slow burn it may be but it's a thing of beauty just the same. What record players were made for. Buy.
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on 15 May 2013
The only reason I bought this cd was because there was a phosphorescent track on a free cd that I bought with a music mag. Loved the track so much, bought the cd. Glad I did, it is absolutely brilliant. Buy it.
0Comment8 of 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 10 January 2014
I was recommended this album just before Christmas. It gripped me on a first listen. It sounded fresh, haunting, great voice, great music.

I played it most for Christmas and into the New Year. I had to rate it the top album of 2013.

Do buy.
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on 30 December 2014
Many albums earn the moniker 'lost classic'...no one buys it but it's brilliant; you know the ones I mean, No Other, Pacific Ocean Blue, Frisco Mabel Joy et al. This album is an absolute joy to behold...glorious, melodic, pained, earnest...and to these ears, at least, with nods to the best of Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips. But, a pound to a penny, I bet it's not sold very well. So, my recommendation to any potential buyer is to purchase without hesitation. It's an instant classic and it's brilliant!
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on 27 May 2015
I love the song Zula. The rest just came with it.
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on 7 July 2013
phosphorescent is one of my fave group since their cd "pride", saw them live about 2 years ago. i own all of their cds and of course i had to purchase "muchacho" too, and i was not disappointed ....
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on 7 August 2013
Brilliant brilliant album full of excellent songs with "Song for Zula" and "Ride On, Right On" alone being good enough to justify buying it.
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