17. Phosphorescent - Muchacho
Release date: March 19 Highlight: "Song for Zula"
Phosporescent's Matthew Houck has been producing music for a long time now, and most of it has been considerably good, well-formed folk rock. From a tribute album to Willie Nelson to Houck's own five plus other recorded releases, Phosphorescent has had a strong presence in folksy, acoustic-loving circles. Whether he likes it or not, Muchacho would've kept along the same path, if it wasn't for one of the best songs that the past twenty years has seen—"Song for Zula." Marrying the bleeding, off-beat smack of a sparse drum with elogonated strings and a torrential outburst of life-grappling questions, Houck has crafted his masterpiece, and through it, entered the mainstream. Albeit through a track that borrows a line or two from Johnny Cash's own "Ring of Fire," Houck seems to have found a route off his plateau, leading Muchacho to a much more exalted place than it would've previously occupied. Here's hoping for more gems like this one.—Caitlin White