Muchacho by Phosphorescent
Some albums make you want to dance. Some make you want to laugh, or to cry. Or to blast as loudly as possible. Or wake up/fall asleep to. And then there are the albums that make you want to do all of those things. Muchacho is that kind of album. This isn’t an album — it’s a soundtrack for life.
Phosphorescent is Matthew Houck. Originally from Athens, Georgia, Houck has been making and playing music as Phosphorescent for over ten years now. Muchacho is his sixth record in that span. I didn’t discover him until his last album, 2010’s Here’s To Taking It Easy, which landed at #20 on that year’s Calendar. (Although looking back at that list now, I should have put it no lower than #11. Damn.)
You can define Houck’s music as country, acid rock, southern rock, or alt.country, but he’s somewhere in the middle of all of them. Keyboards, horns, violins and lap steel guitars play heavily throughout all of his music, and that’s no different for Muchacho. Houck’s voice is like a worn out tee, falling apart at the seams, the most comfortable thing you own. He has the perfect amount of laziness in his delivery, drug along reluctantly by the music laid out before him. Verging on a yodel but never quite getting there, he can sound like sad old dog or a wounded one, backed into a corner, depending on the story he is trying to tell.
And those stories, those yarns, are amazing. Typically about heartache and sorrow, the tales Houck tells can hit you in the deepest parts of your insides. Yet somehow the music isn’t depressing — it’s encouraging. His is a life lived hard but fruitful, a life best avoided but fantastic to vicariously live through.
As a fine capper for this year’s Calendar, you should now listen to Phosphorescent’s cover of Vampire Weekend’s “Ya Hey,” which Houck performed live on the air at KCSN (California State University, Northridge) on October 3. “Ya Hey” was the best song on Modern Vampires of the City, the #3 album of the year, and hearing it performed in Houck’s quiet drawl puts a dark, melancholy twist on the upbeat song. This could have very easily been a Houck original, it’s so different from the Vampire Weekend version.