Phosphorescent – Muchacho
The beauty of a Phosphorescent album is its essential raggedyness. Matthew Houck’s wavering voice, the slightly rough-edged songs, the odd whoop here and a yelp there. At the core it’s a country, rocky, americana, but it’s not a sound that going to get played on a Nashville FM station anytime soon. So, what happens when the pre-release hype about a new Phosphorescent album is all about the electronic textures that Matthew Houck has discovered? And, now it’s arrived, how does a new electronic Phosphorescent album compare to John Grant’s recent electronic-heavy offering? Well, first, Matthew Houck probably didn’t have as many Depeche Mode albums in his collection as John Grant. There’s some electronica, but it’s not omnipresent. There are still plenty of largely electronic-free instant Phosphorescent classics. ‘The Quotidian Beasts’, ‘A Charm/A Blade’, ‘A New Anhedonia’. Second, and here’s the big difference between Muchacho and Pale Green Ghosts, when there is an electronic backdrop, it still sounds like a Matthew Houck album. The opening track. ‘Sun, Arise!’, is perfect. The texture is indeed electronic, but as soon as the reassuringly imperfect multi-tracked harmonies appear, it can be the work of only one artist. Elsewhere, the electronica is used to complement the standard Phosphorescent sound. It increases the palette. It doesn’t wash it away, replacing it with something new. So, ‘Song For Zula’ sounds more than fine. Whatever the speculation, then, this is a true Phosphorescent album. At times, it’s a new, evolving Phosphorescent album for sure. And that can only be a good thing. But this is still the same artist as before. A mature, more confident artist even.