Phosphorescent: C'est La Vie (Dead Oceans) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024  


C’est La Vie

Dead Oceans

Oct 05, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Five and a half years have ticked over since Phosphorescent’s last album, Muchacho, a punishing period for many. The warmth and comfort of Matthew Houck’s records somehow seemed to make more sense back in the halcyon days of spring 2013, but upon this return, perhaps his presence has never been more needed.

C’est La Vie returns us to Houck’s familiar territory: the gentle delivery, the slow build, the ambling pace, the Southern hospitality. “C’est La Vie No. 2” is typical, a warm bear hug of a song that deals in the same Americana-bred storytelling as The War on Drugs, albeit with most of the guitar indulgence dialled down. Similarly, “There From Here” takes its sweet time, its reflective, almost regretful tone ripe for the remarkable expanse that Houck is able to find on record. “Christmas Down Under” is the ne plus ultra of the sound, country slide guitar meshing with Justin Vernon-styled multi-track vocal harmonies, the luxury in story pacing showing healthy disregard for the mayhem and confusion of the modern world. The album’s one true old-fashioned guitar solo emerges unapologetically from the haze at the track’s halfway point, capping off what is sure to be the chillest festive song of 2018.

Some listeners may find the album a touch monotonous, and whilst there are certainly no disco breakdowns, there are wrinkles in the formula. “New Birth in New England” can only be described as upbeat, with lyrics spilling out of Houck’s mind at double pace in the lead up to a Paul Simon-aping simple sing-along chorus. “Around the Horn,” on the other hand, is the record’s centrepiece, straying into the choric reverie one might expect from Spiritualized as a lulling, semi-motorik repeating beat gives way to an extended period of squalling guitar textures, all kept in propulsion by driving piano lines. A calming mantra pattern eventually emerges, the album in microcosm, a therapeutic salve.

Houck’s personal hardships are broadly kept out of the spotlight, excepting the intimate “These Rocks” (“I was drunk for a decade…these rocks, they are heavy”), lending the album a universal utility. The album acts an escapist thinking space, a stress-relieving reminder that everyone needs an hour to step off the cyber-treadmill every once in a while. As the instrumental “Black Waves / Silver Moon” concludes proceedings, its mind-cleansing closure is the dusk to opener “Black Moon / Silver Waves’” dawn, the conclusion to a day out on the ranch with Houck. It’s healthy to take a break sometimes. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 4/10


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