Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Phosphorescent: Here's to Taking It Easy

Phosphorescent, one of the many, many bands to emerge from Athens, Georgia, didn't register on my radar until last year, when they put out an album of Willie Nelson covers.  I'm not particularly a fan of the bearded, bandaned, pot-smoking Texan, so Phosphoresent's 2010 effort, Here's to Taking It Easy, wasn't one of the albums I marked on my calendar before its release in May (possibly the year's best month, musically speaking, with one - two - three - four - five - six -- and now seven -- good albums)... but it should have been.

Led by front man Matthew Houck, who has been around for a while, the alt. country band seems to have made their breakthrough with Taking it Easy, earning high marks from Pitchfork, Paste, the A.V. Club., and others (can anyone still take Rolling Stone seriously?  They're like the print version of MTV.), and Taking it Easy has already turned up on a few best-of-the-year lists.

I've always enjoyed Ryan Adams' alt-country tunes and his lyrics, especially early in his career.  Houck picks up that torch (Adams has been fumbling around for ~five years) and carries it brilliantly.  Houck kickstarts the album with a rockier tune ("It's Hard to be Humble (When Yr From Alabama)"), replete with horns, but as indicated by the album's title, the rest of the record is a bit more mellow.

"Apart from the things I touched," Houck croons out on the second tune, "Nothing got broke all that much." Through the first two tracks, Houck perfectly balances ironic, sentimental, and serious -- not an easy task.  He also takes Zen to the max on "I Don't Care if There's Cursing," uttering the words "I don't care" at the beginning of every verse.  Maybe it's just a stoner jam, but it strikes me more as purposeful complacency (possibly born out of depression).  The absolute stand-out track -- one of my top ten songs from the year -- is "The Mermaid Parade."  Take a listen (especially to the lyrics) and see if you don't agree:

Grade: A-
Blurb: Wish Ryan Adams was still a drunk stoner?  Welp, here's to taking it easy.

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