October 23rd 2007
Dead Oceans Records
Matthew Houck’s performance as Phosphorescent is remarkable. His representation on record is near perfect. Houck’s rustic folk songs have a magic to them; they’ll enchant you with animistic melodies and fill your gut with a deep and anonymous sadness. His voice croons like a lone rancher singing to the stars while some small smoking fire dries the boggy mud on his boots. Pride goes beyond most Americana in defining with startling clarity, even if for a moment, the ambiguous and protean qualities that make American rural culture unique.
Houck’s music descends as much from Welsh and Irish ballads as it does African American hymns and the rhythm of the Lakota Sundance. We have created a mythology about this country and its people; this mythology uses crop fields, prairies, mesas, and deserts as contexts in which our imaginations root the fundamental meaning of the American genesis. Phosphorescent has given us a record that celebrates this known but unspoken communion.
Intended or not, he along and Sam Beam are the standard bearers when it comes to Southern Gothic music. It is a tradition that gives us what history cannot. Animals become metaphors that speak as much of human tragedy as any factual testimonial. Two tracks in particular deserve words of great admiration. A Picture of Our Torn Up Praise opens the record with a sweet and haunting melody. With the pound of each bass drum, the listener becomes more entrenched in the humbling beauty of Phosphorescent’s music. Wolves is perhaps most exhibitive of Houck’s ability to assemble melody, lyrics, and spirit. These two songs alone justify every kind word he receives. Pride is a short yet stunning record. Had I only heard it sooner…
The Weight of Flight- 2004
Aw Come, Aw Wry- 2005
Here is a beautiful video for A Picture of Our Torn Up Praise by Zach Sluser: