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Phosphorescent: Muchacho

Dead Oceans

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Matthew Houck's sixth album is his most haunting and fully realized offering so far. Long-running Americana and more expansive impulses meet in often-busy arrangements, while languid melodies stir an aperitif of wistful regret and abiding ache. The album is shadowed by a dying relationship of which Houck declares, "I can't wake every morning angry and ornery or jaded and thorny," on penultimate number "Down to Go." Despite heartbreak's dark clouds, the album isn't moribund. Houck mixes it up from bounding Fleetwood, Stills & Nash rock ("A Charm/A Blade") to dissipated string-laden electro-folk ("Song for Zula") and dramatic roots noir ("A New Anhedonia"). This is countrypolitan emerging grimy and broken from a mining disaster. But beneath the intermingled pathos and beauty lies begrudging and painful acceptance. (4 out of 5 stars)

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