Phosphorescent is the Matthew McConaughey of indie rock. Not only is he a rakishly handsome Southerner, but for years he created laid back, whiskey-soaked ballads that fell on the country side of country-rock. He made an album full of Willie Nelson covers and an album titled "Here's To Taking It Easy," which could easily serve as McConaughey's epitaph. But gradually critics could no longer ignore the fact that they were witnessing a major creative force. In 2013, Phosphorescent created the beautiful Muchacho, which won Paste Magazine's Album of the Year award.
Call it his Dallas Buyer's Club.
To put it another way, Phosphorescent is to Matthew Houck as Bon Iver is to Justin Vernon. And as Paste pointed out, there is a legend that surrounds the creation of Muchacho similar to that of Justin Vernon fleshing out the Bon Iver album deep in the winter woods of Wisconsin.
In this version of artist-as-wayfarer, Matthew Houck, in the midst of personal agony, traveled to Mexico, found salvation, and came back with a heartrendingly beautiful album. "See the cage, it called. I said, come on in/I will not open myself up this way again" he sings on the cathartic "Song for Zula," the first single off the album. Odds are you heard that one on WYEP at some point – they present the show – and here it is again, performed live:
It's usually bittersweet to watch a favored musician hit the big time, but Muchacho should please fans old and new alike. Houck's singing still rides along the mournful ups and downs of the slide guitar, which tends to makes everything sound more heartfelt. His voice, fragile and honest, reminds me a bit of Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, had Wayne traded in the DMT for Wild Turkey.
We have a pair of tickets to giveaway for the Phosphorescent's visit to Pittsburgh, which occurs January 31 at Mr. Smalls. Email us at pghmusicreport[at]gmail.com with "Phosphorescent" in the subject line, include your name, and we'll let you know if you won.
Caveman open for Phosphorescent. We previewed them once before, in 2011, when they played with The War on Drugs. You can read our take on them here.
-- B. Conway