For some, the love affair with alt folk and Americana died with the advent of four quintessentially English boys dressed in tweed waistcoats and wielding banjos. Mumford & Sons may be a commercially viable prospect – and then some – but their faux-bumpkin tales of woe, it’s fair to say, leave many cold.
If that includes you, prepare to be thawed out by the luscious tones of Matthew Houck, operating under his Phosphorescent banner. Better known for the bluesy honky-tonk that veers into the indie delights of Iron & Wine and Built To Spill, the sixth album from Houck is heartfelt and forlorn. It’s the sound of a man whose life is on the brink, as heard on Terror In the Canyons with its lyric: “But now you’re telling me my heart’s sick/And I’m telling you I know”. However, it’s also the sound of a man who is at least hopeful. Optimism courses through Ride On/Right On, as Houck declares: “Hey you turn me right on”.
What makes Houck a cut above the Mumfords of the world is his use of sparse bursts of electronica, as heard on Song For Zula, and sumptuous strings (see A New Anhedonia). Elsewhere, The Quotidian Beasts perfects Houck’s take on lo-fi indie Americana, while Sun’s Arising (A Koan, An Exit) offers ethereal choral vocals and acts as a charmed closer to Muchacho. Be prepared to fall in love again.