I haven’t heard the entirety of the new Phosphorescent album, Pride. What I’ve heard is the legal mp3 that Dead Oceans graciously made available, the lilting “A Picture Of Our Torn Up Praise”, and also the haunting “Wolves” which was released through Stereogum. I’ve also heard the live version of “Cocaine Lights” that the band cut for Daytrotter a few months ago which will also be on Pride. Based on these early songs, plus all the excellent feedback that a few trusted bloggers have already provided, Pride is my most anticipated new release of the coming months, possibly the remainder of 2007.
After hearing Aw Come Aw Wry, 2005’s rich, meditative record for Misra, I tucked this band into the category of those that are young and promising - similar to how I thought of Okkervil River after Down The River Of Golden Dreams. As that band did with Black Sheep Boy, I have a feeling that Matthew Houck and his, well, non-band (on the new record he’s recorded all the instruments himself save the vocal choir) have created a record that far exceeds past work. Again though, this may be wishful thinking, but check out these songs from the new record and tell me you don’t feel the same way.
“A Picture Of Our Torn Up Praise” has been available for a while now, and was featured on this blog previously. Its hazy melody has lodged itself into my head in the best possible way. It sounds like a logical progression from the last album’s similar chant-like attack on song craft - layered vocals lie atop assorted percussion and easy acoustics. “Wolves” may be even more affective. Intimate and heavily reverbed vocals vie with a stunningly beautiful ukulele (?) melody (God what an underutilized instrument!), as Houck weaves an allegorical tale of wolves fighting in the woods outside a home, preventing life to go on normally.
Like what Sam Beam is doing now or Will Oldham did in the 90s (an easy reference point many reviewers go to - even check the album art for Pride vs. Oldham’s Days In The Wake), Phosphorescent makes traditional American music sound vibrant and alive - not an easy task in a genre that often gets lost in its own conservativism. With one foot in the past, one stepping lightly ahead, Matthew Houck is making some of the most beautiful and rewarding folk music I’ve heard in quite some time.
MP3 :: Cocaine Lights
(from Daytrotter Sessions)