When SPIN visited Phosphorescent's Matthew Houck in his Brooklyn studio last month, the Alabama-bred alt-country experimentalist explained of his new album that, "Several of these songs, I think, had to be produced in a strange way. Otherwise, they would have just fallen flat. They didn't seem like songs that could just be strummed on a guitar." Now we can hear the first taste of Phosphorescent's sixth LP, which Houck has dubbed Muchacho (due out March 2013 via Dead Oceans), and that beautiful strangeness is plenty evident.
"Song for Zula" is built around a swarm of strings and an upbeat electronic pulse, with Houck's lightly cracking voice smoothed over by thick whorls of synth. It's a major change from the full-band effort that was 2010's Here's to Taking it Easy and his 2009 Willie Nelson tribute To Willie. Best of all, Houck's emotional fragility and lyrical nudity are back in full swing: "Some say love is a burning thing, that it makes a fiery ring / Oh, but I know love as a fading thing, just as fickle as a feather in a stream / See, honey, I saw love. You see, it came to me / It put its face up to my face so I could see, yeah, then I saw love disfigure me." Along with the announcement of the album (cover above, track list below), came a bit more of the story behind it. Houck, in his words, was "in the middle of a bit of a freak-out” when he impulsively booked a trip to leave N.Y.C. for Mexico. “It sounds really cheesy," he said, "but I went down there with a guitar and got a little hut on the beach in Tulum, on the Yucatan Peninsula.” Hence Muchacho, which Houck tracked and engineered on his own back at home.
Phosphorescent, Muchacho track list:
1. "Sun, Arise! (An Invocation, An Introduction)"
2. "Song for Zula"
3. "Ride On/Right On"
4. "Terror in the Canyons (The Wounded Master)"
5. "A Charm/ A Blade"
6. "Muchacho's Tune"
7. "A New Anhedonia"
8. "The Quotidian Beasts"
9. "Down to Go"
10. "Sun's Arising (A Koan, An Exit)"