Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s featured selection, chosen by Morning Show host John Richards, is “Wolves” from Phosphorescent, recorded live on KEXP at The Cutting Room Studios in New York City.
The first time Matthew Houck brought Phosphorescent to Seattle, it was a deceivingly quiet Friday. It was just a few months after releasing his first critical success, Aw Come Aw Wry, and the crowd at the Sunset Tavern was meek but eager. Houck’s edition of Phosphorescent were garnering comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel, and though no one can ever live up the hype that surrounds Jeff Mangum, Aw Come Aw Wry came close with its blend of forlorn horns and Southern twang. As the horns began marching towards the stage from the back of the room as the rest of the band played to begin their historic first visit to the Emerald City, the crowd became instantly glued. It was due to the seeming gimmickry of musicians in the crowd, but the ominous, yet sweet melodies that have now become a signature of Phosphorescent.
The follow-up, Pride, from which “Wolves” is found, is a much darker affair. Gone are the splashes of Southern hospitality that made Aw Come Aw Wry such a warm album. Houck expressed fear and anguish throughout Pride, but nothing was as haunting as his metaphorical use of wolves keeping him trapped in his imagined prison. The predators are idealized despite their dangerous nature — they may be hungry for flesh but it is that natural predisposition that breeds beauty. No matter how cornered Houck seemed, his fear was often subsided by nature’s majesty. Matthew Houck has now moved Phosphorescent in a new direction, if this year’s Willie Nelson homage, To Willie, sticks. The bridge from Aw Come Aw Wry to To Willie would be flimsy if not for the heartbreak and confusion of Pride; a testament to the talent and openness of Houck.
A short while back, Phosphorescent made an appearance on the Morning Show with John Richards. Check out the video and photos here if you missed it. Currently, though, Houck and company are busy touring Europe, at least according to the band’s MySpace page. To cushion the blow of their absence, how about more “Wolves” in a live setting — this time from October of 2008 at The Cake Shop during CMJ’s festival: