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Muchacho (Dead Oceans)

Phosphorescent, AKA Matthew Houck, has been releasing solid records of sun-soaked country-rock and ethereal folk hymns for the past ten years. With Muchacho, Houck touches on all of his greatest strengths---riffs, harmonies, sing-alongs, dirges---and the end result is his first front-to-back great album. From the heartbroken piano that graces “Terror in the Canyons (The Wounded Master)” to the aching slide guitar echoing throughout “Muchacho’s Tune,” Houck manages to take the bleakest sounds and themes and injects them with warmth. The album’s peak, however, is inarguably “Song for Zula,” a track that taps into the same swelling spirituality of “Streets of Philadelphia”-era Springsteen, but somehow manages to best it.

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