This is the way it is, muchacho

Phosphorescent’s Matthew Houck, the man behind the moniker, shares the truth in lyrics off of his latest full-length.

Shannon Ryan

What: Phosphorescent


When: 8 p.m., Friday


Where: Turf Club, 1601 University Ave., St. Paul


Cost: $13 in advance, $14 at the door, SOLD OUT


Age: 21+


                Phosphorescent is the musical project of Alabama native Matthew Houck, an esteemed vocalist and lyricist crafting music with country-folk origins. With a voice that alternates between the unerring precision of a choir boy and the higher-note cracks of a youth, Houck’s inventive sound has rendered him six full-lengths in his decade-plus career. After a three-year hiatus from his breakthrough album “Here’s To Taking It Easy,” Houck released “Muchacho,” arguably his most emotionally ambitious LP to date.

                For starters, the genesis of the album came at a tumultuous time for the Brooklyn resident. The winter of 2012 was especially cold for Houck, with an unforeseen studio eviction and a romantic relationship breaking at the seams. The singer-songwriter escaped the harrows of his New York City winter with a trip to Mexico, where “Muchacho” began to develop organically.

                “New York can be a rough time, especially in the winter,” Houck said. “I kind of checked out of my own life for a while and then focused and sat down and wrote. Then I got really excited about the songs, and I wanted to get to work and start recording.”

A week-long flee from reality is what ignited Houck’s inner writing flame. And Mexico made its mark in more than one way on the album, influencing its thematic concept in addition to its title.

“It came from being in Mexico at the time,” Houck said. “There was a Neruda poem I was thinking about at the time, and it’s got this line about reckoning with the will, saying, ‘This is the way it is, muchacho, and you’ve got to handle it.’”

Phosphorescent’s knack for ruggedly embracing the emotions of love, all too identifiable for listeners, is signature to his sound. He combines love in vain with a nomadic ebb, allowing listeners to sympathize with both the pain and relief of his words. Tracks like “Song for Zula” and “Muchacho’s Tune” are seemingly personal accounts of broken romances, though they are actually amalgamations of both personal experience and observations of other people’s relationships. Houck mixes fiction with reality as a way to balance the tender line between his career as a musician and his existence as a man.

“I think there’s a healthy mix of affection [in my lyrics], and I think that’s what art is,” Houck said. “I called this project Phosphorescent from the beginning, as opposed to calling it Matthew Houck, because it’s comforting to me to know there is a degree of separation from my personal life and the art itself.”

This separation is one of the many dichotomies Houck acknowledges and flirts with in his music. A visual representation of such is evident in the self-structured album art for “Muchacho.” The cover is a beautiful mess of topless women, booze and Houck himself rollicking in a sort of glamour laced with desperation.

“I think it’s about sort of facing the fact that there’s this hard dichotomy in life between darkness and light, and happiness and sadness, and pain and elation,” Houck said. “You’re always oscillating between those two themes and allowing those things to exist at the same time.”

Houck’s exploration in love, heartbreak and guitar twang has been recorded in “Muchacho,” an album he will be featuring in tomorrow night’s performance at the Turf Club. Houck will play with a band of six instrumentalists to add layers of horns, bass, pedal steel and fiddle to accompany the coo of his calloused voice.