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Album Review

Phosphorescent, 'Here's to Taking It Easy'

May 10, 2010

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The best part about “To Willie,’’ Phosphorescent’s tribute to Willie Nelson released last year, was that it didn’t sound like the country patriarch. Instead, the album featured some of Nelson’s heartbreakers (too much booze, too much good lovin’), but the vibe — wounded, humble, haunted — was exclusively Phosphorescent’s. It makes sense, then, that the Brooklyn band’s new album shares DNA with Nelson’s country-rock masterpieces from the 1970s. This is not the Phosphorescent that has lurked in the shadows, insulated in a gauze of spectral harmonies as frontman Matthew Houck explored the vagaries of love. “Here’s to Taking It Easy’’ lets some light in with ebullient songs indebted to what Houck has learned from life on the road. It’s also the first time that Phosphorescent feels like a bona fide band developing Houck’s vision. Where previous Phosphorescent albums burned like embers, this new album cracks wide open with rolling piano, blasts of horns, twangy electric guitar, and washes of pedal steel. It’s a direct album made from and for the road; “It’s Hard to Be Humble (When You’re From Alabama)’’ even dares you to dance, a first for Phosphorescent. By the end of “The Mermaid Parade,’’ you realize the album title is a misnomer. Phosphorescent isn’t taking it easy at all — it’s too busy wading into new and welcome territory. (Out tomorrow)

JAMES REED

ESSENTIAL “The Mermaid Parade’’