Phosphorescent

Nearly three years on from his breakthrough album Here's To Taking It Easy, Phosphorescent returns to the fray with his most stunning record yet: Muchacho . During the last album's 'cycle', one could almost hear jaws hitting the floor witnessing a live band of such infinite verve. Not only did the album draw high praise in the form of Mojo's 'Album of the Month' (#8 End of Year), Sunday Times & The Independent 'Albums of the Week', hit Rough Trade's Top 5 Best of the Year, but the band also supported The National over the course of three sold out nights at Brixton Academy, a show that The Independent gave 5/5 and called "a sublime, joyous gig". Matthew Houck, for he is Phosphorescent, likes to work. The Alabama native, now resident in Brooklyn has delivered five albums as Phosphorescent since his 2003 debut. Houck has a highly distinctive artistic voice, but also a refreshing, rolled-sleeves approach to his expression, and if he had his way, he'd have twice as many albums under his belt by now. The singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer is envious of the time when prolificacy was expected. "In the '60s and '70s, they were making artists crank out records every six months. With guys like Waylon Jennings, John Prine and even Dylan, I don't think those records would have gotten made in today's climate, because now you're allowed – or even required – to make a grand statement. I have this ideal – and I know it's not possible, because of the way the industry works – of making a record every year." Houck may not have managed that, but still has an impressive output – one born of commitment and his soul's need to have its say. It was 2007's Pride – a delicate and spare, haunted and haunting work of ragged country, bittersweet southern gospel and forlorn folk-ish drone – that first caused ears to swivel appreciatively in Phosphorescent's direction. He followed it with To Willie, a tribute to country legend Willie Nelson, then 2010's Here's To Taking It Easy, an unapologetically enthusiastic plunge into country rock and rolling Americana. Now, his sixth album flashes yet another colour in the subtly shifting Phosphorescent spectrum. Muchacho reprises the understated melancholia and sensuous minimalism of Pride, while kicking up a little of Here's To Taking It Easy's dust, but it also strikes out into more adventurous waters via rhythm and electronic textures. It took shape if not quite by accident, then partly as a result of events beyond Houck's control. After spending the best part of 18 months touring his last record, Houck was, in his words "pretty fried." In late 2011, he returned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard studio where he'd recorded his previous two albums, planning "on taking this whole thing down a few notches. I wanted to make music," he explains, "but I was weary, so the spectre of putting anything out and getting back on the road was a bit of a block." In December, he bought a load of old analogue gear and "just starting playing around with it, making these noises. They weren't songs, they were just strange sound pieces. I've always had that element in my work, and one or two weird, ambient pieces seem to squeeze themselves onto every record, but suddenly I was doing a lot of those." Houck also turned into a bit of DIY electrician, since a lot of the vintage gear needed fixing. "I ended up spending a lot of time learning about stuff like impedance matching and ohms," he laughs. "I really got quite nerdy about how it all worked." Houck also got very enthusiastic about the sonics that would eventually feed into the strikingly raw, Can-like, 'Ride On/Right On', where his simple, whooping vocal and 808 drum beats are the focus, the production is echo-heavy and the guitar little more than abstract background choogling. "I've always been happy with the records I've made," the singer says, "but sonically, I think there's been something lacking. This time, I was getting really excited about the experimental sounds I was making. I was thinking I might make an ambient record that had vocals, but no lyrics. I was actually considering releasing it under another name, or even my own name." So, a much-needed break, plus some enjoyable messing around with noise, without much thought as to how to use it. But, exactly as 2012 turned, Houck's life began to unravel. A domestic crisis meant he had to find another apartment/studio at short notice, in the dead of winter. In accommodation-squeezed New York. His life was falling apart, but almost perversely, "songs just started happening, and there were five or six of them." Houck admits he was "in the middle of a bit of a freak-out," so in the small hours one Sunday, he booked a ticket to Mexico, on a plane that was leaving three hours later. "It sounds really cheesy, but I went down there with a guitar and got a little hut on the beach in Tulum, on the Yucatan Peninsula." He spent a week there, working to finish the songs that would become Muchacho, then went back to NYC, found a new place, fitted it out with his studio and began tracking the record in May 2012. 'Muchacho's Tune' – with its opening braid of twanging guitars, piano and electric keys, its warm, rich reverb and poignant mariachi brass – is the song on which the album turns. "I've been fucked-up and I've been a fool," confesses Houck, who may or may not be the feckless man-boy of the title. This was the first song to come to him fully formed, and it establishes the album's lyrical theme – "that the possibility of redemption through love and romance is not just hopeful, it's also viable. It definitely exists. But what ends up happening is more redemption through some vague means that I don't really understand." The album is perfectly framed by 'Sun, Arise! (An Invocation, An Introduction)' and 'Sun's Arising (A Koan, An Exit)', the opening and closing tracks respectively. Sweet, healing and hugely potent in their hymnal simplicity, they not only recognise the diurnal rhythm that governs our existence, but also remind us that however dark things might get, the light will always reappear. 'Muchacho's Tune', the somber and majestically slow 'A New Anhedonia' and the seductively loose 'The Quotidian Beasts' are the album's fullest songs in terms of instrumentation and arrangements. Houck called on around 20 musicians at different times to add various parts, including members of the superior five-piece live band that has recently made such an eloquent and physically powerful contribution to Phosphorescent's soulful expression. But the album's composition and production are again all his own. "It's really always me by myself, so much so that with Pride, no one else played anything. I have a group of really great dudes, and I'll happily trumpet how fantastic these guys are, but a band going into the studio, as one? That never happens." 'A New Anhedonia' – a gorgeous, charcoal grey song on which understated piano, soft brush work and ripples of pedal-steel guitar are matched with heavy reverb and gently sighing backing vocals – was the second song to come fully formed to Houck. And the crisis it describes was resolved by the very writing. Anhedonia is a loss of the ability to take pleasure in something the sufferer usually finds enjoyable, and Houck experienced it in those winter months following that grueling tour. It's quite a shock to hear him murmur, "all the music is boring to me" and then describe music as "foreign", but that's how he felt for a short, dark while. "In addition to what was going on in my personal life, music had always been the most reliable thing for me, but I had a few really lost months of not caring about it, of not deriving any pleasure from music. I felt detached and adrift from everything. Oddly enough, I don't think I knew the word 'anhedonia'; it just kind of popped up right around the time of writing that song. That dread was still quite prevalent, even after the batch of songs came together." If losing one's way results in something as lustrous as the first album taster 'Song for Zula', more artists should find life's maze and walk around for an indefinite period. It is such a glorious gem that unfolds with Houck's cracked vocal stalking the perimeters unabashed. And this amidst an album positively riddled with highlights like 'Terror in the Canyons' and superlative 'A Charm/A Blade'; all barreling piano and stabby horns galore. It's indicative of Houck's distinctive talent, dedication to his work and trust in his muse, then, that a temporary hurdle didn't become a serious block. "I got clear of it by just getting to work on the recording," he says, simply. Sleeves rolled. Resolve fixed. Muchacho delivered.

Phosphorescent Premieres “Song For Zula” Video at NPR

Premiering this morning at NPR’s All Songs Considered, it is the new Djuna Wahlrab & Matthew Houck co-directed video for “Song For Zula.” Captured in one continuous, slow-motion shot, the video focuses in on a woman as she painfully tries to free herself. From what you ask? Watch above to find out.

“Song For Zula” is featured on Phosphorescent’s recently released Muchacho. You can find your copy at SC Distribution, iTunes, Amazon or from Matthew himself at one of their forthcoming shows. If you are planning to attend a show, consider purchasing your tickets in advance; venues are selling out quickly! Oh and here’s a taste of what to expect in the live show – Phosphorescent live at SXSW for WFUV.

Happy Release Day // Phosphorescent’s ‘Muchacho’ Out Now, Pitchfork TV Performance Set for March 22

Happy release day, folks! Phosphorescent’s Muchacho is officially available online and in stores. Pick up your copy at SC Distribution, iTunes and Amazon or head into your local record store to pick the album up in person.

Matthew will stop by the Pitchfork TV offices this Friday, March 22 to play his new songs (tune in at 3PM). Luckily for all of us, the performance will broadcast live on P4k’s front page. Check out the stream teaser above! You can also see Phosphorescent live in concert. Tour dates available HERE.

 

LOVE FOR MUCHACHO

“Accordingly, listening to Muchacho often feels like being warmed by afternoon sun as it floods your window. Every sound is lovingly recorded and given a cradle of space…It’s a place where well-worn sounds are the most beloved, where ideas and poses are settled into like old chairs. On ‘Muchacho,’ Houck invests this world with new beauty and profundity.”Pitchfork, named BEST NEW MUSIC

“Phosphorescent is a Brooklyn band that hasn’t forgotten its Southern pedigree, creating washy psychedelia with a foothold in country-rock.”New York Times

“…the sixth album from Houck is heartfelt and forlorn. Be prepared to fall in love again.”Bowlegs Music

“‘Muchacho’ is a record which can soothe even the darkest nights and moods.”This Is Fake DIY

ALBUM LYRICS // Phosphorescent – ‘Muchacho’

Sun, Arise! (An Invocation, An Introduction)

Sun a-rising. Ease. Easy oh.
Dark as I been. Ease. Easy oh.

Be easy oh.

Dark as I been. Ease. Easy oh.
Sun’s a-rising. Easy. Easy oh.

Be easy oh.
Be easy oh.
Be.

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Song For Zula

Some say love is a burning thing
That it makes a fiery ring
Oh but I know love as a fading thing
Just as fickle as a feather in a stream
See, honey, I saw love. You see, it came to me
It put its face up to my face so I could see
Yeah then I saw love disfigure me
Into something I am not recognizing

See, the cage, it called. I said, “Come on in”
I will not open myself up this way again
Nor lay my face to the soil, nor my teeth to the sand
I will not lay like this for days now upon end
You will not see me fall, nor see me struggle to stand
To be acknowledge by some touch from his gnarled hands
You see, the cage, it called. I said, “Come on in”
I will not open myself up this way again

You see, the moon is bright in that treetop night
I see the shadows that we cast in the cold, clean light
My feet are gold. My heart is white
And we race out on the desert plains all night
See, honey, I am not some broken thing
I do not lay here in the dark waiting for thee
No my heart is gold. My feet are light
And I am racing out on the desert plains all night

So some say love is a burning thing
That it makes a fiery ring
Oh but I know love as a caging thing
Just a killer come to call from some awful dream
O and all you folks, you come to see
You just stand there in the glass looking at me
But my heart is wild. And my bones are steam
And I could kill you with my bare hands if I was free

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Meet You in Austin // Dead Oceans at SXSW 2013

It’s hard to believe we’re saying this, but SXSW starts next week! Go ahead and sip on the sweet nectar that is our OFFICIAL SXSW LABEL SHOWCASE, featuring Phosphorescent, Night Beds, Brazos, Bleached and Akron/Family. We have teamed up with Jagjaguwar and Secretly Canadian for the event, which will take place on THURSDAY, MARCH 14 at RED 7 (611 E. 7th St.).

Artists will perform on both the indoor and outdoor stages, and folks with wristbands/badges are invited to join. Check out the full schedule above or below. Note that DOC artists are in bold. You’ll also find all of our artists’ showcase schedules at the bottom of the post.

Stay tuned this week for updates on SXSW, Spotify playlists and contests! Niiiceee.

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DOC/JAG/SC Official Label Showcase

Outdoor Stage
Unknown Mortal Orchestra: 1:00 – 1:45
Phosphorescent: 11:55 – 12:40
Foxygen: 10:55 – 11:35
Bleached: 10:00 – 10:35
Small Black: 9:05 – 9:40
Cayucas: 8:15 – 8:45

Indoor Stage
Akron/Family: 12:35 – 1:20
The Besnard Lakes: 11:30 – 12:15
DIANA: 10:40 – 11:10
Suuns: 9:45 – 10:20
Night Beds: 8:50 – 9:25
Brazos: 8:00 – 8:30

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ARTIST SHOWCASE SCHEDULES:

Akron/Family
3/12 @ Antone’s (Pandora) 3:00pm
3/13 @ Clive Bar (Filter) 5:00pm
3/14 @ Hotel Vegas (Reverb Appreciation Society) 4:30pm
3/14 @ Red 7 (DOC/JAG/SC Showcase) 12:35am
3/15 @ Old Emo’s (Brooklyn Vegan) TBD

A Place To Bury Strangers
3/16 @ Brazos Hall (Psych Fest SXSW) 12:45am

Bleached
3/14 @ Scoot Inn (Converse / Thrasher) 2:00pm
3/14 @ Red 7 (DOC/JAG/SC Showcase) 10:00pm
3/15 @ Bar 96 (Filter) 6:00pm
3/15 @ Hotel Vegas (Panache) 9:35pm
3/16 @ Easy Tiger (Spin House) 2:00pm
3/16 @ Holy Mountain (Third Shift) 4:00pm

Brazos
3/14 @ Red 7 (DOC/JAG/SC Showcase) 8:00pm
3/16 @ 1000 E 5th (Shiner/Do512) 1:00pm
3/16 @ The New Movement (Pop Press International) 2:30pm

Night Beds
3/14 @ Urban Outfitters 3:00pm
3/14 @ Red 7 (DOC/JAG/SC Showcase) 8:50pm
3/15 @ Hotel San Jose (SXSJ) 2:00pm

Phosphorescent
3/13 @ Hype Hotel (Aquarium Drunkard) 10:00pm
3/14 @ Willie Nelson’s Ranch in Spicewood, TX – Heartbreakers Banquet 6:30pm
3/14 @ Red 7 (DOC/JAG/SC Showcase) 11:55pm
3/15 @ Red Eyed Fly (Another Planet) 3:30pm
3/15 @ Bar 96 (Filter) 9:30pm
3/16 @ Hotel San Jose (SXSJ) 6:00pm

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Booking Agent Contact

US
The Windish Agency
Ben Buchanan
ben@windishagency.com

Europe/UK:
James Alderman
Free Trade Agency
jamesa@freetradeagency.co.uk

tour dates

04/18/15

Austin, TX - Untapped Festival
See all upcoming shows »

free downloads

Los Angeles (Live) by Phosphorescent
Song For Zula by Phosphorescent
The Mermaid Parade by Phosphorescent

video

Ride On / Right On
by Phosphorescent
Song for Zula
by Phosphorescent
At Death, A Proclamation
by Phosphorescent

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