Phosphorescent, Strand of Oaks | Lincoln Hall | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.
When: Sat., April 13, 10 p.m. 2013
The backstory to the latest album from Phosphorescent, Muchacho (Dead Oceans), borders on cliche: front man and sole constant member Matthew Houck was suffering through a breakup in early 2012, and he turned to songwriting to soothe himself. In the midst of this turbulent time, he spontaneously bought a plane ticket to Mexico and spent a week in a coastal hut in Tulum finishing the new album’s songs. On the second track, “Song for Zula” (which begins with a direct quote from the opening couplet of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”), he lays his suffering bare, referring to his relationship as a “cage” and promising, “I will not open myself up this way again / Nor lay my face to the soil, nor my teeth to the sand.” Luckily, Houck’s cracked, southern drawl and the cosmic twang in his arrangements give his music a lyrical beauty and homegrown soul that prevent it from sounding melodramatic or self-pitying. The best songs are ambiguous: “A New Anhedonia,” for instance, combines spiritual questing and slow, stately rhythms, and the disorienting power of lust spreads through the Neil Young-ish “The Quotidian Beasts.” The album opens and closes with multitracked vocal meditations: the electronics-heavy “Sun, Arise (An Invocation, An Introduction)” features clustered strings that sound like a Sigur Ros outtake, and the heavily reverbed interjections on “Ride On/Right On” could easily be a salute to Alan Vega’s nightmarish rockabilly yelp. Always restless, Houck seems to reinvent himself between every album, but his heartbroken wail never changes. —Peter Margasak Strand of Oaks opens.

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