Phillips’ debut is a collection of ghostly, melancholy songs, begun, it seems
on acoustic guitar, but fleshed out at times with spectral guitar effects. The
sometime ballet dancer, sidelined with a tibial bone inflection, turned to
songwriting at a dark intersection in his life, a period when he could hardly
walk for pain.
produced his first EP Shoot the Moon,
yet even now, a couple of years later, you get the sense of persistence through
trouble, epiphany through disappointment and discomfort. These songs track
lonely, late-night snow-trails through wintery Boston (“Memorial Drive”) and diffident,
unsuccessful attempts at connection (“Last Dance”) with elegiac grace.
is a big part of the effect, rising effortlessly into airy, angelic falsetto
like Jeff Buckley’s younger cousin. The arrangements around his striking vocals
are sparse, but not entirely unelectrified. There’s a fine amp-buzzing wash of
feedback over “Star-Crossed,” more like Ride or Slowdive than Elliott Smith, a
punch of drums kicking up dust in its plaintive corners.
recorded with Phosphorescent engineer Alex Lipsen, who helped him capture the
surreal, spooky underside of folk and country in these delicate, closely
observed songs. He’s not a bad songwriter, but the album’s clear highlight is a
borrowed version of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” as somber and
sepulchral as a country song heard at a séance table, but twice as beautiful.
DOWNLOAD: “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” “Memorial
Drive” JENNIFER KELLY