Prior to Muchacho, Matthew Houck aka Phosphorescent specialized in creating country-folk Americana that always hinted towards his desire to explore his palette further. His new album "Muchacho" is his most diverse and has therefore incorporated for the first time electronica in a big way into his songs and packed them full of undulating synthesizer arpeggios and warm tones. "Muchacho" is an exceptional album with thoughtful, haunting and intelligent songs, beautifully arranged and - in their idiosyncratic way - very well sung. The music is a rich, electronic and often times nostalgic. There is a mixture of the mournful and the hopeful here, and a mixture of styles, too, held together by the slightly cracked, mixed-back and multi-tracked vocals which I found very expressive and affecting.
The opening song "Sun Arise" might sound like something you would hear if you put fleet foxes and four yet in a blender. The gorgeous harmonized vocals work well against against the electronic elements. The first song is stellar but the highlight of the album is the second song "Song For Zula" which combines Houck's reedy voice and slabs of synth to combine in a great song underpinned by soaring pedal steel. Everything is in its right place on this track and it should be in immediate contention for song of the year. Other songs like "Muchacho's Tune" and "Terror in the Canyons" are a return to form and use organic instrumentation and rely less on the electronic elements. This is a fantastically diverse album that doesn't fail to remember that songwriting is still the most important part of any song.
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