Highlights: Song For Zula, Muchacho’s Tune, A New Anhedonia
It’s a rare kind of person (and probably not the sort of person you would ever wish to know) who will not be impressed by Phosphorescent’s new single, “Song For Zula”. A soulful, heartfelt ballad with lots of love-sick passion and anguish bubbling underneath, all filtered through striking, atmospheric arrangement that would surely work wonders during lengthy end credits of a good drama. Plus, the tormented lyrics and the equally afflicted vocal delivery that will pull at your heartstrings and will again stress the well-beaten point that perhaps it’s the unhappy people that make good art.
Because Muchacho is a very downbeat album. The simple but effective melody of “Muchacho’s Tune”, for instance, is made even more effective by an irresistible catch line that goes “I’ve been fucked up and I’ve been a fool”. So if you happen to be in that kind of mood already – proceed with caution. But that’s an admittedly halfhearted warning, because good art has nothing to do with your life (or the life of the artist, for that matter). Good art is all about art.
Musically, it’s not too cheerful either, with only the chorus of “A Charm / A Blade” offering something really funky and upbeat. Otherwise, we are deep in the lost love / luckless loser territory, and that is fine if you can come up with a great tune to go with it. Which is exactly what Matthew Houck does on most of this album. There are misfires along the way (the opener and the closer make little sense), parts that are underwhelming (“The Quotidian Beasts” has something good going on, but doesn’t quite get there), and yet the overall impression is that this album is a wholesome piece and should be treated as such.
Muchacho is pretty much its cover art without the smiles. It’s intimate, it’s intensely emotional – even if nothing hits you quite as hard as that “Song For Zula” triumph. High 7.