Critics' Pick: Phosphorescent, Family Band

Matthew Houck's Phosphorescent is the kind of act whose albums receive 25 reviews from music publications on MetaCritic and nary a user rating.

The talent's there. Houck's roots predilections draw inspiration from familiar touchstones such as The Band, Gram Parsons and Willie Nelson, to whom he dedicated his 2009 covers album, To Willie. Houck's aching country-folk and roots rock is sometimes tinged with a sunbaked folk-psych (think early Pink Floyd) that wavers behind Houck's reedy tenor. Its parched quaver is reminiscent of Will Oldham. His songs move at a laconic, ramshackle pace like that endemic to southern latitudes, often sounding obscured by road haze.

Phosphorescent came to most critics' attention with his '05 second album, Aw Come Aw Wry, whose dramatic downbeat tone suggested a more country Sparklehorse. The dreamy, textured sway of 2007's Pride made him a critical darling. It didn't hurt that at times it recalled Animal Collective's psychedelic experimentation. To Willie brought Houck back toward his country roots, and he maintained that trajectory with last year's Here's To Taking It Easy. Accompanied for the first time by a full band, it's a more lively effort. Houck's voice sounds stronger than ever, and the brisk melodies sound like they have someplace they need to be.



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