Album of the Week: Phosphorescent – C’est La Vie (2018)

C’est La Vie may be American musician Phospherescent’s seventh studio album, but it is probably his first blatantly optimistic ode to love, life, and everything in it.

The first release, “New Birth in New England,” was released a few months ago, and indeed hinted at a friendly, easy return after a five-year hiatus. A time during which the man behind Phosphorescent, Matthew Houck, reportedly fell in love (with Australian multi-instrumentalist Jo Schornikow), married, moved from New York to Nashville, had two children, and built a new recording studio – where this album was made.

It seems fitting, then, that C’est La Vie has a sense of homeliness about it. It feels comfortable – like a well-worn sweater – unlike the somewhat icky residual feeling 2013’s Muchacho left once it’s surface sadness had ebbed away.

The opening track, “Black Moon/Silver Wares,” is a hauntingly beautiful instrumental with vocal harmonies reminiscent of a Gregorian chant. It is balanced at the end of the record by an epic six-minute extended mix, if you will, entitled “Black Waves/Silver Moon,” which brings in the tribal-sounding elements you expect to hear at the start.

Whilst the intro doesn’t set up the expectations for the rest of the album – which is much more like lead single “New Birth in New England” in both content and style – it does create a sense of completion when coupled with the closing number.

Title track “C’est La Vie No. 2” sounds like it features Houck solo, minus the rest of the band (including wife, Jo) – which may be why it’s the only track beside the intro to come in at under four minutes.

The rest of the tracks are much weightier, with “Around the Horn” tipping the scales at a whopping eight minutes. The remarkable thing about these tracks, however, is they don’t seem to drag – the storytelling beautifully mixed with impressive musicianship to create one hell of a soundscape.

“Christmas Down Under” is a nice little nod to Houck’s new links to Australia, talking about finding himself in a Tiki bar while a storm rolls overhead (our Christmas, of course, being in the middle of summer), and features an impressive guitar solo break in the middle.

Stylistically the album gives a nod to many different genres – there’s hints of indie pop, glimmers of blues, undertones of gospel and overtones of indie folk. While it’s hard to pigeonhole, it’s also impossible not to like. It’s not a party starter by any stretch, but if you’re looking for a soundtrack to a relaxing Sunday arvo, this might be a good place to start: its gentle positivity will keep the end-of-weekend melancholy away.


C’est La Vie is out this Friday.