Tag Archives: Phosphorescent

Villagers

Villagers

I’ve said it before, but it’s been a while, so I’ll say it again… I love listening instructions. Having someone tell you what music to try is great, but even better is being told the how, where and when, as well. That’s just what Villagers frontman Conor O’Brien has done with his latest album, {Awayland}. On the Villagers website, he lists the following instructions…

Maybe try it on headphones first, without interruption. I hope you enjoy.

Truth be told, by the time I saw his note, I was already 3/4 of the way through the album, and I was indeed listening through headphones. This barely qualifies as coincidental, given that new music is almost always debuted this way, for me and, I’d guess, for a lot of other people. But the second part — the “without interruption” corollary — that’s a bit more interesting, because I’d had the very same thought mere moments after I clicked play on NPR’s First Listen of the album. Almost immediately, I felt the need to hunker down for the full-album experience, despite being 30 or so minutes away from reading O’Brien’s instructions. Now that’s a coincidence worth digging our teeth into.

So why’d that happen? Why did I instinctively know that {Awayland} would be a great cover-to-cover read?

[cue Carrie Bradshaw voiceover]

Why would one album be better suited for uninterrupted listening than another?

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Phosphorescent

Phosphorescent

For a long time, all I knew of Phosphorescent was “Cocaine Lights.” I’m not sure how I came across it, but I think I know why I latched onto it — it’s one of the best coming-down songs I can remember hearing. I’m a sucker for these. They’re music’s way of helping us survey the wreckage after a storm, or wade through the emotional spillage that results from a fight, or decide whether the pizza that nobody was thoughtful enough to put in the fridge is still edible the next morning. These songs are dried up, distilled, naked, and honest, hurting and soothing in one languid motion.

If I’m being honest, I need only have heard the first line of “Cocaine Lights” to place the song in this sacred category. Matthew Houck pours oceans into those 7 words — “In the darkness/After the cocaine lights” — with a craggy voice that sounds like poetry when it climbs down the scale. In fact, the tonal topography of the phrase tells a story by itself, peaking quickly and then stumbling down rocky terrain. The rest of the lyrics might as well be a bonus, given that just 33 seconds into the song, I’m already where I need to be. Sober and rattled, regretful and removed. This may even be the reason I hadn’t sought out more of Houck’s music — those first 7 words gave me more emotion to chew on than most artists can serve up in 7 albums. But I’m happy to say that Houck’s new effort, Muchacho, has awoken the sleeping Phosphorescent fan inside me.

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