Phosphorescent C'est La Vie Review For Northern Transmissions

Dead Oceans

7.5/10

Phosphorescent

C'est La Vie

If there’s one thing Phosphorescent has always nailed, it’s a powerful sense of guitar tone and ambiance. For his latest record, Phosphorescent leads strong with this energy but soon also moves into a distinctly pop energy. Interestingly however, it’s more the lackluster moments that Phosphorescent doesn’t expand on that weight the record done.

With the glistening guitars, heavy bass and ominous vocals seep in slowly on “Black Moon / Silver Waves” as they create a moody intro the record. Halfway between a Morricone western soundtrack and “The Sound Of Silence,” this track is epic and subtly catchy to say the least. With this concept in mind, so much of the album elevates pop writing to something mildly score-like that it just feels like perfectly cinematic pop. “C’est La Vie No.2” lets its simple hook and warm loop drive the track, as Matthew Houck reflects on the hardships we just have to accept in life. While the song really lays stagnant in this progression, there’s such a wondrous, hopeful feeling to it that it works just the same.

Phosphorescent hits a powerfully moving rhythm on “New Birth In New England” where a sense of fun just oozes out of the writing to create a euphoric dance track. Out of his swampy breakdown section, Houck even rejuvenates the energy of the track to make its final chorus feel just as lively. Alternatively songs like “There From Here” rely much more on Phosphorescent’s calling card of amazing guitar tones and soothing melodies. In this way the song is able to create a great space on the record and improve complete listens but doesn’t exactly offer a standout moment.

“Around The Horn” takes an over the top pop approach to the Phosphorescent sound, and really just goes for a big, punchy rock energy. Rather than boost the album as a whole, this track’s more generic sound actually feels like it will help Houck capture a broader audience who may have ignored his more focused ideas before. In the dark country rings of “Christmas Down Under” there’s a brutal sense of sadness, but one that becomes duller as the song refuses to expand beyond its main riff. Though it does run a bit long for this kind of writing, there’s a fire behind the guitar solo that really makes the end feel worth the wait.

There’s an instantly catchy energy to the beach-like guitar playing of “My Beautiful Boy” that speaks to its lyrical attempts to soothe troubled souls. Even though it also outstays its welcome a bi, the steady drive of its bass allows it to at least play as a chipper mood-piece. Outside of its sonic strengths, “These Rocks” is a little too samey and bland country to really stand next to the album’s highs. In this way it feels forgettable but once again gives the album a nice sense of continuity at least. Luckily “Black Waves / Silver Moon” rounds out the ending with a strong mix of drum rhythms and brooding vocals. Though it’s strange to run the song quite so long, it makes up for the blander moments of the record fairly well.

Words by Owen Maxwell