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A haunting, beautiful and intelligent album
on 10 April 2017
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.