Band of the Day

2011.11.27

Phosphorescent

Reverb-doused rocking Americana with an experimental twist
Now our hearts were on fire, only two weeks ago, and our bodies were like live wires down on the beach in Mexico.
lyrics from The Mermaid Parade

Phosphorescent is a one man indie-folk project based out of Brooklyn, New York headed by Alabama native Matthew Houck. A multi-instrumentalist, Houck began Phosphorescent in 2001 after self-releasing a one off album under the moniker Fillup Shack. Phosphorescent's style is typified by implementing natural instrumentation, emotional lyrics, somber vocals and diverse Americana influences. Eclectic in nature, he has been compared to country great Willie Nelson, folk legend Bob Dylan and Exile On Main Street era Rolling Stones.

Primarily releasing LPs throughout his career, Phosphorescent debuted with the 2003 LP A Hundred Times More on Warm Records, and followed up with the Weight of Flight EP in 2004. Switching to Misra records for his sophomore LP, Aw Come Aw Wry was released in 2005 to critical success. His next three albums 2007's Pride, 2009's To Willie (a compilation of Willie Nelson covers) and 2010's Here's To Taking It Easy were released on Indiana-based label Dead Oceans.

Phosphorescent is Alabama native Matt Houck, a talented multi-instrumentalist grounded in American roots music. Now based in Brooklyn, Houck weaves country, folk and rock together with an experimental sensibility to create lush, emotive alt-country romps. But this is no neutered take on roots music. On his latest album Here’s to Taking It Easy, Houck makes world-weary get into a bar fight or sob into your beer music, depending on your mood. However, the bucket loads of reverb-doused harmonies and fiery bursts of lead guitar make it great either way. “It’s Hard To Be Humble (When You’re From Alabama)” is the jovial beginning to the album, featuring Houck’s ever-frazzled drawl alongside rollicking piano and a let’s-get-the-party-started horn section. Arguably the best song Houck’s ever written, “The Mermaid Parade,” tells the tale, in heart-wrenching detail, of how a marriage dissolved, punctuated by desperate cabs to the airport and descriptions of new loves: “Yeah, I found a new friend too / and yeah she's pretty and she's small/but God damn it, Amanda./Oh God damn it all.” The story unfolds over spirited piano and lead guitar that would have fit in on the Rolling Stones’ country-rock masterpiece Exile On Main Street. Before writing his alt-country extravaganza Here’s To Taking It Easy, Houck released a full album of covers by the honky tonk grandmaster Willie Nelson. Called To Willie, Houck puts his signature woozy touch on Nelson’s classic material, succeeding with tracks like “Reasons To Quit” and “Can I Sleep In Your Arms.” 2007’s Pride is a different beast altogether. It’s much slower than Phosphorescent’s later material, and tends toward introspective folk arrangements that Houck transforms into ethereal backwoods spirituals. In “A Picture of Torn Up Praise” Houck sings in echoing, interlocking whispers over a loose guitar stomp before adding layers and layers of vocals, transforming the track into a howling hymn with enough reverb and spiritual intensity for any cathedral. “Wolves” is a bone-tingling track featuring Houck’s vulnerable warble over an unearthly organ and jangling mandolin.