2013 mid year faves

Here we are again at list time, halfway through 2013 and already there have been a swathe of great albums released. We’ve been listening to an eclectic mix of stuff as usual including dub electronica, skronking freeform saxophone, abrasive art rock, retro-leaning post punk and heartstring americana. These are the records we’ve loved the most from what we’ve heard this year. There will be others from the last six months that we’ll discover as the rest of the year rolls out but we can at least highly recommend these ones – in no particular order…

  • Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away
  • Protomartyr – No Passion All Technique
  • The Phoenix Foundation – Fandango
  • Kirin J Callinan – Embracism
  • The Drones – I See Seaweed
  • Fat Freddy’s Drop – Blackbird
  • Jason Isbell – Southeastern
  • DJ Koze – Amygdala
  • Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record
  • Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol 3: To See More Light
  • Zomby – With Love

ALBUM REVIEW: Phosphorescent | Muchacho

ds album reviews

by Chris Familton

square-600-6Rating7Matthew Houck (Phosphorescent) has proven to be something of a prolific and mercurial songwriter since his third album Pride caught people’s attention in 2007 with its stark and heartfelt folk songs. Since then he confessed his love for Willie Nelson before further embracing country music on Here’s To Taking It Easy. Muchacho is a shift from the musical themes of those records, taking in more diverse textures and occasional electronic flourishes. Through these changes Houck’s talent as an emotive writer still rings true.

Muchacho opens with Sun, Arise! (An Invocation, an Introduction), a hymnal welcome that marries twinkling kosmiche synths and Silent Night melody. As a statement of intent it sets the listener up perfectly for what follows. Song For Zula visits the dramatic string-laden landscapes of Mercury Rev circa Deserter’s Songs and it isn’t until Terror in the Canyons (The Wounded Master) that our feet return to a more familiar countrified Phosphorescent. This exploration of new sonic textures is something that Bon Iver has toyed with and more recently the likes of Daughn Gibson who successfully married country and electronic forms. The good news is that Houck has indulged his curiosity sparingly. The songs still shine through the new dressage, whether it is the bouncy horn-led A Charm / A Blade or the graceful choral sway of A New Anhedonia there is always a strong focus on Houck’s fragile songs regardless of how he frames them musically.

If Here’s To Taking It Easy felt like an interstate road trip in the fading glow of summer then Muchacho’s mood is one of the rich tapestry of music that embodies those cities, from gospel to country rock, jazz to folk. It is a rich and rewarding world that Houck has conjured and one built on drama and grace.

this review was first published in The Drum Media / themusic.com.au

NEWS: PHOSPHORESCENT to release new album…

Matthew Houck aka Phosphorescent is set to release his 2nd full length of originals on May 11th via Dead Oceans (Inertia in Australia) and is calling it Here’s To Taking It Easy. It follows on from the covers record To Willie and on first listens (yep we have a copy!) it sounds like a finely balanced mix of that alcohol soaked country album and his  more personal and haunting debut.


It’s Hard To Be Humble (When You’re From Alabama) DOWNLOAD

Nothing Was Stolen (Love Me Foolishly)

We’ll Be Here Soon

The Mermaid Parade

I Don’t Care If There’s Cursing

Tell Me Baby (Have You Had Enough)

Hej, Me I’m Light

Heaven, Sittin Down

Los Angeles


05/10/10 New York, NY- Other Music (free in-store performance)

05/11/10 Brooklyn, NY- Union Pool

05/12/10 Philadelphia, PA- The Blockley

05/13/10 New York, NY- Mercury Lounge

05/17/10 Leuven, Belgium – STUK

05/19/10 Gent, Belgium – Vooruit

05/20/10 Antwerpen, Belgium – Trix

05/22/10 Ottersum, Netherlands – Roepaen

05/23/10 Den Haag, Netherlands – Paard

05/24/10 Zwolle, Netherlands – Eureka

05/25/10 Berlin, Germany – Roter Salon

05/27/10 Nürnberg, Germany – K4

05/28/10 Vienna, Austria – Fluc

05/29/10 Freiburg, Germany – E-werk

06/01/10 Paris, France – L’Espace B

06/02/10 London, UK – ICA

06/03/10 Manchester, UK – Deaf Institute

06/04/10 Glasgow, UK – Captain’s Rest

06/05/10 Birmingham, UK – Hare & Hounds

06/06/10 Amsterdam, Netherlands – Paradiso

09/10/10 Dorset, UK – End of the Road Festival

09/11/10 Isle of Wight, UK – Bestival


ds album reviews


Cover albums are a strange beast. They can either be a hit or miss collection of an artist’s favourite songwriters like Patti Smith’s recent Twelve, or an album of different bands paying tribute to one particular musician such as The Late Great Daniel Johnston. Phosphorescent has taken a different angle by releasing To Willie, a collection of lesser known gems from Willie Nelson’s back catalogue.

As Phosphorescent, Matthew Houck has released three previous records with 2007s Pride receiving the most exposure and some deserved critical acclaim. Many who became fans of that record were excited to hear that a new release was imminent yet the news of its content and theme may have disappointed many anticipating a new set of originals. Fear not readers as To Willie is no let down. It provides an interlude between Pride and the followup due in 2009 and is a great album in its own right.

‘Reasons To Quit’ is a rich and softly swinging opener that was originally written by Merle Haggard. It takes the bragging tone of Haggard and Nelson’s version and turns it into a lament of disappointment and regret at not kicking those habits and addictions. The pedal steel and piano in particular cradle the weary voice of Houck as he sings “So we keep smokin and we keep drinkin / Havin fun and never thinkin’ “. They are words sung with one bleary eye on self destruction and the other looking back at what might have been.

‘Walkin’’ is a fine example of the often made comparison between Phosphorescent’s voice and that of Will Oldham’s. There is an uncanny similarity in the way he inflects his words with that lonely country warble and the wavering notes of fragility that sound like they are just hanging on by a well worn thread. He brings the emotion to the surface of his songs so  powerfully that it quickly becomes clear there is room for both of these bearded singers.

‘I Gotta Get Drunk’ is another track that in its original form is an upbeat pure country song.  Here Houk recreates it with a rolling Dylan feel circa ‘Highway 61 Revisited’, complete with shuffling drums and wheezing harmonica. Rather than sounding like a pastiche it comes across as a well constructed and very clever reworking of both song and style.

Ethereal floating harmonies in the mould of Bon Iver feature on ‘Can I Sleep In Your Arms’. Houck multitracked his own voice to create a haunting hymn with sparse shackle-like percussion and a solitary distant guitar drifting in and out of the ether.

It is clear that Phosphorescent is drawn to the songs of Nelson that centre around the downbeat and downtrodden, the forlorn and melancholic stories of despair, loneliness and heartache. He wraps them all up in an aching sense of resignation that is enhanced by his choice of instrumentation. The breathing space he allows the songs is a critical ingredient in the heavy weight of emotion they contain. Nothing is rushed as they drift on at their own pace like a canoe heading slowly into fog.

The album concludes with ‘The Party Is Over’, Nelson’s tribute to the end of a night spent celebrating. The playful vein of dark humour running through it lightens but never masks the sadness the song contains. The theme of perpetual motion in terms of life keeping on keeping on is summed up perfectly in the lines “Let’s call it a night, the party’s over / And tomorrow starts the same old thing again”.

Phosphorescent has set a new precedent for cover albums with this record. Its thematic song selection and the obvious heartfelt tribute with which Houck put the project together is the masterstroke behind its beauty. He has cast a new sepia toned light on songs written  or made famous by Nelson that will lead many to dig deeper into the country music stalwart’s catalogue.

NEWS: PHOSPHORESCENT to release covers album…


The magnificent Phosphorescent will release a tribute to Willie Nelson on February 3rd entitled To Willie.

This will be the follow up to Matthew Houck’s 2007 album Pride which is a fantastic record for those fans of Will Oldham and Bon Iver.  Coming out on the label Dead Oceans, the new record is a love letter to Willie Nelson and selects many of his lesser known songs.  According to the press release there is a strong new confidence to the playing after much touring in support of Pride.

Rumour is that there is a also new Phosphorescent album of originals coming our way soon but no official info on that as yet.