Phosphorescent

Nearly three years on from his breakthrough album Here's To Taking It Easy, Phosphorescent returns to the fray with his most stunning record yet: Muchacho . During the last album's 'cycle', one could almost hear jaws hitting the floor witnessing a live band of such infinite verve. Not only did the album draw high praise in the form of Mojo's 'Album of the Month' (#8 End of Year), Sunday Times & The Independent 'Albums of the Week', hit Rough Trade's Top 5 Best of the Year, but the band also supported The National over the course of three sold out nights at Brixton Academy, a show that The Independent gave 5/5 and called "a sublime, joyous gig".

Matthew Houck, for he is Phosphorescent, likes to work. The Alabama native, now resident in Brooklyn has delivered five albums as Phosphorescent since his 2003 debut. Houck has a highly distinctive artistic voice, but also a refreshing, rolled-sleeves approach to his expression, and if he had his way, he'd have twice as many albums under his belt by now. The singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer is envious of the time when prolificacy was expected. "In the '60s and '70s, they were making artists crank out records every six months. With guys like Waylon Jennings, John Prine and even Dylan, I don't think those records would have gotten made in today's climate, because now you're allowed – or even required – to make a grand statement. I have this ideal – and I know it's not possible, because of the way the industry works – of making a record every year."

Houck may not have managed that, but still has an impressive output – one born of commitment and his soul's need to have its say. It was 2007's Pride – a delicate and spare, haunted and haunting work of ragged country, bittersweet southern gospel and forlorn folk-ish drone – that first caused ears to swivel appreciatively in Phosphorescent's direction. He followed it with To Willie, a tribute to country legend Willie Nelson, then 2010's Here's To Taking It Easy, an unapologetically enthusiastic plunge into country rock and rolling Americana. Now, his sixth album flashes yet another colour in the subtly shifting Phosphorescent spectrum.

Muchacho reprises the understated melancholia and sensuous minimalism of Pride, while kicking up a little of Here's To Taking It Easy's dust, but it also strikes out into more adventurous waters via rhythm and electronic textures. It took shape if not quite by accident, then partly as a result of events beyond Houck's control. After spending the best part of 18 months touring his last record, Houck was, in his words "pretty fried." In late 2011, he returned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard studio where he'd recorded his previous two albums, planning "on taking this whole thing down a few notches. I wanted to make music," he explains, "but I was weary, so the spectre of putting anything out and getting back on the road was a bit of a block." In December, he bought a load of old analogue gear and "just starting playing around with it, making these noises. They weren't songs, they were just strange sound pieces. I've always had that element in my work, and one or two weird, ambient pieces seem to squeeze themselves onto every record, but suddenly I was doing a lot of those." Houck also turned into a bit of DIY electrician, since a lot of the vintage gear needed fixing. "I ended up spending a lot of time learning about stuff like impedance matching and ohms," he laughs. "I really got quite nerdy about how it all worked."

Houck also got very enthusiastic about the sonics that would eventually feed into the strikingly raw, Can-like, 'Ride On/Right On', where his simple, whooping vocal and 808 drum beats are the focus, the production is echo-heavy and the guitar little more than abstract background choogling. "I've always been happy with the records I've made," the singer says, "but sonically, I think there's been something lacking. This time, I was getting really excited about the experimental sounds I was making. I was thinking I might make an ambient record that had vocals, but no lyrics. I was actually considering releasing it under another name, or even my own name." So, a much-needed break, plus some enjoyable messing around with noise, without much thought as to how to use it. But, exactly as 2012 turned, Houck's life began to unravel. A domestic crisis meant he had to find another apartment/studio at short notice, in the dead of winter. In accommodation-squeezed New York. His life was falling apart, but almost perversely, "songs just started happening, and there were five or six of them." Houck admits he was "in the middle of a bit of a freak-out," so in the small hours one Sunday, he booked a ticket to Mexico, on a plane that was leaving three hours later. "It sounds really cheesy, but I went down there with a guitar and got a little hut on the beach in Tulum, on the Yucatan Peninsula." He spent a week there, working to finish the songs that would become Muchacho, then went back to NYC, found a new place, fitted it out with his studio and began tracking the record in May 2012.

'Muchacho's Tune' – with its opening braid of twanging guitars, piano and electric keys, its warm, rich reverb and poignant mariachi brass – is the song on which the album turns. "I've been fucked-up and I've been a fool," confesses Houck, who may or may not be the feckless man-boy of the title. This was the first song to come to him fully formed, and it establishes the album's lyrical theme – "that the possibility of redemption through love and romance is not just hopeful, it's also viable. It definitely exists. But what ends up happening is more redemption through some vague means that I don't really understand."

The album is perfectly framed by 'Sun, Arise! (An Invocation, An Introduction)' and 'Sun's Arising (A Koan, An Exit)', the opening and closing tracks respectively. Sweet, healing and hugely potent in their hymnal simplicity, they not only recognise the diurnal rhythm that governs our existence, but also remind us that however dark things might get, the light will always reappear.

'Muchacho's Tune', the somber and majestically slow 'A New Anhedonia' and the seductively loose 'The Quotidian Beasts' are the album's fullest songs in terms of instrumentation and arrangements. Houck called on around 20 musicians at different times to add various parts, including members of the superior five-piece live band that has recently made such an eloquent and physically powerful contribution to Phosphorescent's soulful expression. But the album's composition and production are again all his own. "It's really always me by myself, so much so that with Pride, no one else played anything. I have a group of really great dudes, and I'll happily trumpet how fantastic these guys are, but a band going into the studio, as one? That never happens."

'A New Anhedonia' – a gorgeous, charcoal grey song on which understated piano, soft brush work and ripples of pedal-steel guitar are matched with heavy reverb and gently sighing backing vocals – was the second song to come fully formed to Houck. And the crisis it describes was resolved by the very writing. Anhedonia is a loss of the ability to take pleasure in something the sufferer usually finds enjoyable, and Houck experienced it in those winter months following that grueling tour. It's quite a shock to hear him murmur, "all the music is boring to me" and then describe music as "foreign", but that's how he felt for a short, dark while. "In addition to what was going on in my personal life, music had always been the most reliable thing for me, but I had a few really lost months of not caring about it, of not deriving any pleasure from music. I felt detached and adrift from everything. Oddly enough, I don't think I knew the word 'anhedonia'; it just kind of popped up right around the time of writing that song. That dread was still quite prevalent, even after the batch of songs came together."

If losing one's way results in something as lustrous as the first album taster 'Song for Zula', more artists should find life's maze and walk around for an indefinite period. It is such a glorious gem that unfolds with Houck's cracked vocal stalking the perimeters unabashed. And this amidst an album positively riddled with highlights like 'Terror in the Canyons' and superlative 'A Charm/A Blade'; all barreling piano and stabby horns galore.

It's indicative of Houck's distinctive talent, dedication to his work and trust in his muse, then, that a temporary hurdle didn't become a serious block. "I got clear of it by just getting to work on the recording," he says, simply. Sleeves rolled. Resolve fixed. Muchacho delivered.

If the opening notes on Joe Pug's new LP "Windfall" are a bit disorienting, his fans won't likely be surprised. The Austin, TX singer songwriter has made a habit of defying expectations so the piano-driven "Bright Beginnings" and the atmospheric rumination of "Great Hosannas" are just further indication that he's quite comfortable stepping outside of the guy-with-a-guitar trappings of the genre.

His rise has been as improbable as it has been impressive. After dropping out of college and taking on work as a carpenter in Chicago, he got his musical start by providing CDs for his fans to pass along to their friends. This led to a string of sold out shows and a record deal with Nashville indie Lightning Rod Records (Jason Isbell, Billy Joe Shaver). As he toured behind "Messenger" (2010) and The Great Despiser (2012) it was with a band that looked as much like a jazz trio as an Americana band. "I never quite found a live band that captured what I was aiming for until I connected with Greg [Tuohey--electric guitar] and Matt [Schuessler--upright bass]. It was an arrangement that maybe didn't make a ton of sense on paper but 10 minutes into the first rehearsal I knew this was going to be my band." The following years would have them on the road for over four hundred shows, including stops at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and The Newport Folk Festival.

The relentless grind of four years of nonstop touring had taken its toll though, and by late 2013 he was ready to call it quits. The tour that fall was a runaway success but his personal and creative lives were a different story. "It was this surreal dichotomy. Everyone kept congratulating me on how well the tour was going, and the mood was probably the best it had ever been on the road. We finally got two hotel rooms in each city instead of one. We've got this incredible group of die-hard fans that somehow make each show bigger than our previous trip through town. Meanwhile my relationship was in shambles and creatively I was at a dead end. There was absolutely no joy left in playing music. So we walked off stage after a particular show when I played terribly, and pulled my manager aside in the green room and told him to cancel the rest of the tour dates and that I was essentially through."

But studio time was already scheduled and deadlines had been set for a new record, so after a few weeks Pug was back to the business of writing songs. "In retrospect, I was in a very unhealthy place. I was sitting in a room with the blinds shut and a notebook, forcing out words that weren't there and drinking astonishing amounts of bourbon. I was looking at it as a job….as a business obligation, and that is a very slippery slope." At that point he decided to make good on his promise from the previous tour. The album was put on indefinite hold. "I just needed to start behaving like a human being again. I needed to reconnect with my girlfriend. I needed to eat healthy food. I needed to go enjoy live music as a fan. I really needed to make sure I still loved making music, because I really had my doubts at that point."

The resulting layoff paid dividends in spades. When Pug set up camp in Lexington KY in 2014 to record, he did so with some of the best songs he has ever written. The agenda was much simpler than previous albums. "The aim on this one was very straightforward. We wanted to capture the music just the way we play it, with minimal production. It was a very back to basics approach because ultimately that's what I love about music, and that's what I love about making music. I wanted to record these songs the way they were written and put them out in the world." The result is a collection of songs that are as close as we've gotten to a road map to Pug's ambitions. He has collected plenty of the requisite Dylan comparisons over his young career but on this record it's easier to hear the sway of more contemporary influences like Josh Ritter, Ryan Adams and M.Ward.

The theme of resilience plays a central role throughout Windfall. The weary protagonist in "Veteran Fighter" wills his way further down the highway despite the gloom that seems certain to overtake him. "The Measure", a song inspired in part by Frederic Buechner's novel Godric, marvels at "every inch of anguish, laid out side by side" but ultimately finds that "All we've lost is nothing to what we've found." "I never really write songs with a specific narrative in mind," Pug explains. "When you're sort of pushing through a dark period of your life it's probably inevitable that some of that is going to find its way onto the page. But in the same way, by the time we were in the studio the process had become very effortless and joyful. And hopefully you can hear a lot of that on the record as well." This duality appears perhaps most overtly in the album-closing stunner "If Still It Can't Be Found", which features Pat Sansone of Wilco guesting on mellotron.

If it's not around this corner it's around the next
If it's not beyond this river it's beyond the next
And if still it can't be found
It's prob'ly for the best

As the saying goes, "All's well that ends well." Joe Pug didn't call it quits after all. He's engaged to be married and still drinks bourbon on occasion. His new album, Windfall, will be released March 10, 2015 on Lightning Rod Records in the US and Loose Music in Europe.

Natural Child

"…YEAH, WELL, NOW THEY SOUND LIKE BOB DYLAN, THE STONES, STOOGES, NEIL YOUNG, WAYLON JENNINGS… WELL, EVEN WILLIE. I GUESS THEY'VE BEEN AT IT FOR A COUPLE YEARS NOW. BACK IN SUMMER OF '09, BACK WHEN I MET EM, WEZ AND ZACK WERE EATIN WEED BROWNIES AND THEY REALIZED THEY NEEDED SETH IN THE BAND. WELL, THEY DECIDED THEREFORE AND THEN TO START THE GREATEST ROCK N' ROLL BAND IN THE WORLD-- NATURAL CHILD. PROBABLY KNOWN AS MUCH FOR WHAT THEY SAY AS WHAT THEY DO, THEY'VE EARNED A REPUTATION OF GIVING AUDIENCES THE STRAIGHT DEAL. WORLDWIDE. THEY ARE CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS OF BUYING BILL WYMAN'S BASS AMP FROM 1970. GOD BLESS EM."
-Leon Russell

Ian Cooke

Singer, songwriter, cellist, pianist -
Ian Cooke has appeared in SPIN magazine, Finished #1 in the Denver Post Music Poll in 2009, and has been voted Best Avant-Pop for 3 years by Westword Magazine. He also plays cello on Crooked Fingers’ album Forfeit/Fortune and his two songs appeared alongside Billy Bragg, Owen Pallett, and M Ward on ‘Versions of Joanna’ – a Joanna Newsom covers-album.
He has toured in the US and Australia playing with: The Dresden Dolls, Crooked Fingers, Built to Spill, The Decemberists, The Flaming Lips (Monolith Festival), Blonde Redhead, Devotchka, Rasputina, Wovenhand, Pedro the Lion and many more.
Cooke’s 2009 album, ‘The Fall I Fell,’ has sold out of two pressings and has been re-pressed with a DVD with solo live versions of songs, videos, a 5.1 surround mix of the album, etc.
His newest album ‘Fortitude’ was released in 2012 with national distribution with Sony/Red via Greater Than Collective

Patrick Dethlefs

(Pronounced "DET-Lefs")
Patrick Dethlefs' songwriting crests like a humble Townes Van Zandt, innocent of his own haunting melodies and lyricism. Dethlefs' music offers folk Americana with effortless sincerity at a time when many acts strive purposefully to revive the stripped-down feel of a musical history long past.

"Dethlefs finds poetry in the memories and that slight pain in the laugh lines."
- Daytrotter

"Patrick Dethlefs creates music that doesn't just get captured inside of your head, but really sinks into your bones."
- Fellow Magazine

Eros & the Eschaton

"An honest overtly-talented group of true artists, Eros and the Eschaton are full of creative spirit and ambient imagery that are nothing short of an atmospheric blessing."

Weaving magic into shoegaze pop, Eros and the Eschaton are like the proverbial feast before the battle, painting with broad, colorful strokes against an ever-changing backdrop. "Injecting romanticism into dreampop forms... that range from Beach House on a warm day to Jeff Buckley and Ben Gibbard-flavored electric folk" (The Indy), Eros and the Eschaton are making "exquisite dream-gaze that carries you through the cloudspheres of your youth and fills your lungs with the breath of your first love and favorite songs…" (Philip Pledger, Estrangers). Their debut album, recorded in Greensboro, is scheduled for release August 13 on Bar/None Records.

Brent Cowles

You Me & Apollo came from the desert of southern Arizona where dirt bakes and cracks. The moniker belongs to Brent Cowles, who began exploring the weight and thirst of the name in 2007 with the writing and release of How To Swim, How To Rot – an EP of songs too harsh to be from the cask and too beautiful to have distilled under moonlight. Brent Cowles’ experience belies his tender age. He started playing in bands when he was 14, got married at 18, divorced at 20, and has filled the intervening years with a non-stop regimen of national touring and recording. So when he sings “I learned my lesson young,” on the characteristically raucous “Open Doors,” it’s safe to say he comes by it honestly.

“Cowles is a scrawny, wiry 23-year-old with frizzy hair and a shy countenance, but behind the mic he sounds like a haggard, middle-aged man with struggle and strife in his rear-view mirror.” -Ricardo Baca, The Denver Post

We Are Not a Glum Lot

We Are Not a Glum Lot is a 4 piece indie/math/pop/ band from Colorado Springs Colorado. The group consists of Zac Blum on Bass, John Carey on Drums, Colin Foxwell on violin, and Singer/Guitarist Sam Erickson. The 4 piece formed after the members met as freshman in high school, quickly bonding over similar tastes in music. Shortly before the band's formation, drummer John Carey overcame a bout with cancer,resulting in the Make-a Wish foundation gifting a drumset to John. The band quickly generated buzz in their home town shortly after their formation due to their young age juxtaposed with their musical prowess. In 2012, the group was named "Best Indie-Rock Band" by the Colorado Springs Independent." Their style is often said to be a modern take on the Art Rock sound of the late 80's and 90's. Now in their early College years, the boys cite Modest Mouse, Foals, Explosions in the Sky, the Smiths, and the Strokes to be some of their main influences. With youth and the skill-set of musicians far more experienced than them working in their favor, the potential for the band seems almost endless.

The Changing Colors

The Changing Colors play richly-layered, rough-hewn songs. Part of a burgeoning alternative and Americana scene along Colorado’s Front Range, The Changing Colors stake out new ground on the borders in between. On intensely thematic albums that channel frontier mystics and old-world visionaries, frontman Conor Bourgal turns a distinctly postmodern sensibility on traditional folk elements of authenticity, storytelling and the supernatural for an effect as present as it is haunting.

$30.00 - $50.00

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