Phosphorescent’s Matthew Houck has hit a career high with the release of his sixth full-length album, Muchacho, which creates the perfect blend of electronica and Americana.
The album opens with bubbling electro synth and harmonized vocals in “Sun, Arise!,” which, along with its sister song “Sun’s Arising,” bookend the album. Don’t be fooled, however—they are a far cry from the eight other songs that come in between.
The remarkable feat Houck has accomplished with this album is managing to balance perfectly arranged instrumentals—creating a lush and monumental sound—with his strained, reedy, and hiccupping vocals. Rather than detracting from the music, Houck’s poignant and passionate voice drips with heartache and lost love, adding a very familiar and relatable human element that resonates with listeners. Even if you’ve never had your heart broken, when Houck croons, “I’ll fix myself up to come and be with you” in “Muchacho’s Tune,” he might as well have been reading a line out of your personal diary.
Muchacho’s breakout track is arguably “Song for Zula.” With its resonant synths and pedal steel guitar, this song contains some of the best lyrics of the album. It is obvious this troubled troubadour has seen some trying times as he sings, “Oh but I know love as a caging thing / Just a killer come to call from some awful dream.”
Nevertheless, Muchacho is not without its upbeat, foot-stomping moments as well. In particular “Ride On, Right On” and “A Charm/A Blade” recall earlier works and speak to Phosphorescent’s versatility, a mastery that seems to have come with time.