C’est La Vie by Phosphorescent

The ‘Song For Zula’ singer (you’ll know it when you hear it) comes back with his first LP in a half-decade. Now that Justin Vernon is fully lost in the Kid A sauce, Matthew Houck’s guise positions him well to assume the mantle as the king of folkish indie. Judging by positive stuff that’s happened in his life since 2013’s Muchacho - he’s had some kids and left New York - and the upbeat strum of new Phosphorescent single ‘New Birth In New England’, Houck will be a more benevolent ruler than the furrowed-browed Vernon.

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REVIEWS

C’est La Vie by Phosphorescent
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9/10 Greg 14th January 2019

Fifteen years and seven albums into his career, and Matthew Houck (aka Phosphorescent) still sounds like he has something new to say, and on ‘C’est La Vie’ he has a lot to say seeing as it’s his first album in five years. In that time, he left New York for Nashville, became a father – twice, built a studio by hand and nearly died of meningitis. So it’s no surprise that each of these nine songs exudes a spirit of strength and survival. After the haunting choired opener of “Black Moon / Silver Waves”, he begins the title track “C’est La Vie No. 2”, a gently pulsing piece with pumping keyboards and a bopping rhythm with Houck’s lyrics reflects on who he was and who he has become. “New Birth in New England” is an irresistible gospel-pop-rock tale, with its light-hearted narrative and its calypso-tinged melody that has the glorious lilt of Paul Simon and the quirkiness of Vampire Weekend. “Around The Horn” is eight minutes of motorik psych-country soundtracked by swirling guitars and double-tracked vocals with multiple crescendos that ultimately something uniquely epic. “My Beautiful Boy” is a sweet protective lullaby elevated with pedal steel guitars. It sees Houck watching his son asleep, whilst gripped by the mortal terror of the boy dying and not being able find him in heaven. “Christmas Down Under” is a slow country/R&B ballad sung in harmony with his own vocodered voice, with pedal steel and electric guitars in soaring unison. “These Rocks” is a slow-burning, almost spiritual meditation on burden and change with Houck at his most openly confessional, before “Black Waves / Silver Moon” closes the album in a tapestry of staccato guitars, twinkling organs and ghostly vocals. Throughout the album, Houck sounds bemused but happy, like he’s still learning to navigate his way through life and eventually learning to appreciate a whole new existence within himself, giving a jubilant new meaning to the saying “C’est la vie”.




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