Music

Phosphorescent: The Weight of Flight

Jon Goff

Phosphorescent

The Weight of Flight

Label: WARM Electronic Recordings
US Release Date: 2004-06-08
UK Release Date: 2004-06-21
Amazon
iTunes

There's a track entitled "When We Fall" on Phosphorescent's new EP The Weight of Flight that exposes a forgotten intention of folk music. That intention is to unite a community under the auspices of melody so irresistible, that all those in its path are rendered helpless to do anything but bang away on homegrown instruments in a whirlwind of joy. Far too often folk music is defined by a solitary man or woman singing a solemn song over a solemn guitar rather than by the folk the music is meant to move, or, at the very least, involve. The raucous piano, horns and handclaps on "When We Fall" recall a time when music was the priority and privilege of a mystical land somewhere between the saloon and the church. Even a listener distant in time and place from the song's conception can barely withstand the primal urge to sing, howl, and stomp his or her feet.

Phosphorescent is the current recording alias of Athens, Georgia musician Matthew Houck. Houck has received his share of complimentary press in recent years, including comparisons to the stratospheric residents of the folkie set, Dylan and Will Oldham, as well as the more recently anointed denizens like Grandaddy and Papa M. He's got an achy break-y croon that lends weight to a line like "Sadly in search of / One step in back of themselves / And their slow moving dreams" from a rain-soaked home recording of Sharon Vaughn via Willie Nelson's "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys." But, if anything, he leans on this croon too heavily. Rather than capitalizing on the energy of "When We Fall" he surrounds it with melancholy and largely solo compositions that leave it awkwardly positioned like a station break between the real hard-hitting news. There's a magic in "When We Fall" that deserves deep exploration, but for now, we are left with an examination of five somewhat disappointingly pleasant moments.

It should be noted that Phorphorescent officially boasts six members in addition to Houck. These fellas are responsible for the hootin' and hollerin' on "When We Fall", but they also handle bass, drum, and key duties on the album's other tracks. In fact, they damn near rock out by the end of "Not Right, You Know." The first three minutes of the song consists of Houck singing and plucking guitar over accordion-style sustain, a spell which is soon broken by a rush of distortion, cymbal pounding and multi-tracked guitar, keyboard, and horn melodies. "Mrs. Juliette Low" shows Houck's voice at its most vulnerable and his writing at its most imagined and captivating. The cover of "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys" proves that song to be painfully beautiful, which will come as a revelation to most listeners, including myself. Unfortunately, the album's first two tracks seem to languish when compared with the rest of the material. Both "Toes out to Sea" or "All of It, All" recall Will Oldham at his most methodical and lamenting. Neither track can either escape or fully relish the deliberate pace of loss.

By the end, all of this going it alone seems a sad reminder of unnecessary burdens we put on ourselves. Houck has found willing company, he needs to find a way to pay them their due.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image