Muchacho, 180G Black Vinyl LP
When Phosphorescent's Matthew Houck came off the road in support of his last album, 2010's Here's to Taking it Easy, he was mentally and physically exhausted, uncertain he wanted to make another Phosphorescent record. So he dispatched himself to Tulum, a small community in Mexico, where, he said, "I just checked out of my life for a while." As he took long solitary walks in the woods and swam, the pieces of what would become Muchacho began taking shape in his mind.
As with everything Houck does as Phosphorescent, from 2007's urban-rustic classic Pride to his 2009 Willie Nelson tribute record, this little story has an endearingly second-hand ring to it, as if Houck was obediently following the dictates of some dog-eared country-drifter playbook tucked in his back pocket. But this credulousness is also key to his music, which glows with simple reverence and purity. On Muchacho, Houck gathers together everything he's attempted-- beery, rollicking country-rock, haunted tribal hymnals, regret-soaked bar room heartbreak-- and fashions it into something close to a defining statement.
The first layer of Muchacho to savor is the simple gloriousness of its sound. Houck records his music largely alone, bringing in key players for individual parts but crafting the end results meticulously, in isolation. With the assistance of engineer John Agnello (Kurt Vile, Male Bonding), he has produced a bright, rich, warmly three-dimensional record, one that fuses the headed-for-the-big-city bar-rock signifiers of Here's to Taking it Easy with the night-sky awe of his earliest work. In fact, the album feels like a daylight version of Pride, a point hammered home by the contrast between that album's "Be Dark Night" and this one's two book-ending hymnals.