Dead Oceans

Phosphorescent’s latest album had its genesis in Tulum, Mexico. When everything in Matthew Houck’s life went south, he did too. Tulum’s a place where, as you slice your arms through the waves, you can peer up to the cliffs and see Mayan ruins surrounded by palm trees. It’s a place that puts life in perspective. It would be unfair to categorize this merely as a breakup record though. The music shimmers with the joy of early Eno grounded by Gram Parson’s country pop alchemy. This is a country record in the best possible sense: pain is rendered unflinchingly until the transcendence breaks your heart. On “A Charm / A Blade” Houck dissects the push and pull of love’s demise thusly: “Pressed apart those skins still hold / This can’t be what you want / It can’t be what you want.” And on the weary and dazzling “Down To Go” he sings: “You say, ‘Oh, you’ll spin this heartache into gold.’ And I suppose, but it rips my heart out don’t you know” This is, by far, my favourite release of the year. If this record has yet to hit your radar I seriously suggest you give it a spin.

—Larry Barnard

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