Pasatiempo - - Music -

Here’s to Tak­ing It Easy (Dead Oceans) Matthew Houck, who records as Phos­pho­res­cent, has spent a good por­tion of his ca­reer stum­bling around, search­ing for a sin­gu­lar voice to call his own. He’s tal­ented enough that these ex­per­i­ments have pro­duced wor­thy records (par­tic­u­larly 2007’s haunt­ing Pride), but it took Houck record­ing an al­bum en­tirely in an­other per­son’s voice for him to fully de­velop his own. His 2009 disc of Wil­lie Nel­son cov­ers, To Wil­lie, taught the song­writer how to con­vey an en­dear­ing world­weari­ness and, more im­por­tant, how to sharpen a nice hook. The re­sults shine on Here’s to Tak­ing It Easy, as fine a coun­try al­bum as I’ve heard in ages. It’s the de­tails that make it: the clack­ing, lo­co­mo­tive rhythm that en­ters half­way into the sub­lime “Noth­ing Was Stolen (Love Me Fool­ishly),” the slightly Phishy bounc­ing bass and outro jam of “I Don’t Care if There’s Curs­ing,” the lines that come across like shrugs of frus­tra­tion, such as, “Oh God damn it, Amanda/God damn it all” in the midst of “The Mer­maid Pa­rade.” De­spite be­ing a rel­a­tive new­comer to the genre, only on the rave-up “It’s Hard to Be Hum­ble (When You’re From Alabama)” does he sound re­motely like a tourist. The rest of the way, it’s au­then­tic coun­try, beaten down and ex­hausted but truly in­spired. — Robert Ben­ziker

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