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Posted on June 2nd, 2010 (7:44 pm) by Chad Flanders

This album has the feel of a pleasant get together with friends, where everyone is, well, taking it easy. If the album fails to satisfy on that level, as an evening’s entertainment and no more, it may be more the fault of the grumpy listener than the album itself. On their latest album, Phosphorescent ask us to sit back, relax, and take a load off and even to join in, if we’re so inclined.

The first song on Here’s To Taking It Easy provides a great entryway into the entire album: it is joyful, inviting, and uncomplicated. “It's Hard To Be Humble (When You're From Alabama)” is a rousing, all-instruments-on-deck number: the basic melody line is repeated continuously, giving the guitars plenty of room to riff. The lyrics are similarly repetitive, giving the song a sense of unity rather than to reaching out to any higher meaning. Again, this is a song to breezily pass the time, and not something to tax the mind or spirit.

The songs that follow shift in tempo a bit, but the pattern is almost never varied. The melody lines are simplistic; the themes repeat and double back on one another. It all goes down smoothly—sometimes too smoothly. The problem to this approach is that the songs are grasped so directly, their pleasures given up so quickly, that the force of the album wanes with repeated listens. If great music is defined largely by replay value, then this album isn’t great music. Taking It Easy stays on the surface, substituting guitar meanderings for true depth.

Phosphorescent have garnered comparisons to the Jayhawks and Wilco. These are mostly well-taken, although certainly the band resembles the more countrified versions of those two bands: the Jayhawks pre-Smile, or Wilco’s A.M. But even to make these comparisons is to see that Phosphorescent lack the depth of either band; where Wilco or the Jayhawks would take a song in a new direction after a refrain, Phosphorescent just repeat the refrain again, maybe adding another glistening piano solo.

Am I being too hard on an album that is dedicated to taking it easy? Perhaps. However, many of these songs are simply airy nothings or gentle background music to accompany lazy porch sitting. When looked at from this angle, the repetition and simplicity is precisely the point. These are songs you don’t have to focus too hard on; they drift in and out of your consciousness, so that you can concentrate on more important things.

A dismissive moniker for albums like this is “sonic wallpaper.” However, sometimes the music shouldn’t be the point; it should make the background, frame the scene. And it’s precisely when you don’t notice the album, that it catches you off guard and surprises you—like when you feel, more than you hear, the achingly beautiful, “tell me baby (have you had enough).” Or the third or the fourth time you hear the chorus of “heaven sittin’ down,” you find yourself wishing pain and pleasure weren’t so tightly bound. Or when the swelling harmonies of the eight minute long “Los Angeles” catch in your throat.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, Taking It Easy works best when you simply relax to it, and are not listening as a critic. Sit back, press play, and let it wash over you while you’re doing something else—even if the something else is only taking it easy.

Track List:
1. It's Hard To Be Humble (When You're From Alabama)
2. Nothing Was Stolen (Love Me Foolishly)
3. We'll Be Here Soon
4. The Mermaid Parade
5. I Don't Care If There's Cursing
6. Tell Me Baby (Have You Had Enough)
7. Hej, Me I'm Light
8. Heaven, Sittin' Down
9. Los Angeles

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

65 / 100
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