Phosphorescent is the brain child of Matthew Houck, a native of Athens, Georgia and now Brooklyn, New York. He is a bit of a one man show and records atmospheric americana and warm country rock. He has released seven albums to date, including a tribute album to Willie Nelson, and built up some pretty strong critical acclaim since his debut…
A Hundred Times or More (2003)
Key track: How Far We All Come Away
Phosphorescent’s debut release caused the London Evening Standard to exclaim “he may prove to be the most significant American in his field since Kurt Cobain”. Now, that is praise indeed. It might have been jumping the gun some what, but the debut has some great moments, with gentle, woozy, skewed folk being the order of the day.
Aw Come Aw Wry (2005)
Key track: I Am A Full Grown Man
Phosphorescent’s firs critically acclaimed album, tracks like I Am Not A Heel, Joe Tex Blues and I Am a Full Grown Man hint at the later direction of Houck. If you like records such as I See A Darkness by Bonnie Prince Billy, then this album, and most of the Phosphorescent catalogue is for you.
Key track: Wolves
An album that features a key track from the Phosphorescent catalogue. Wolves is a perfect example of Houck’s hushed, melancholy folk. This album makes for superb night time listening, either in the darkness with headphones, or with a dim light and a cold beer. It has a nice wintery feel to my ears.
To Willie (2009)
Key track: I Gotta Get Drunk
A tribute album to Willie Nelson, featuring a set of Nelson’s songs. This album actually takes it’s name from a similar album that Nelson himself released in 1975 entitled “To Lefty, from Willie”. I don’t know much of Willie Nelson’s music, and certainly not any of the songs included on this, so I don’t know if that helps or hinders the listening experience. The songs on here are mostly full band country songs with pedal steel etc, the usual country traits. I have no idea how faithful they are to the originals, but it’s a nice album all the same.
Here’s To Taking it Easy (2010)
Key track: The Mermaid Parade
My first exposure to Phosphorescent, and it’s, in my opinion, his best, most cohesive album. It has a full compliment of instrumentation, from piano and pedal steel to brass and strings. In places it sounds a bit Rolling Stones circa 1972, in other places it doesn’t sound like anyone else. In fact, I think this album is pretty much a masterpiece from start to finish. There is not a bad song on here. You have bouncy country, Neil Young style rockers and even meditative mantra’s.
Key track: Song for Zula
A different approach on Houck’s seventh album, adding a nice soft electronic edge to his hushed country folk. He uses multi layered harmonies (all his own vocals) marvellously, and Song For Zula was my song of 2013. This is pretty close to being his second masterpiece in a row, and was a critics favourite last year. Houck’s cracked vocals suit this music so well, and his songwriting is on par with any of his contemporaries.