in Obsessong

This might not strictly meet the criteria of Obsessongs, but I’m trying to keep the post-a-day thing going as long as we can. So here’s a chance to write about probably the best song on one of my favorite albums this year that I haven’t had a chance to write about yet. Are you going to complain about that? You shouldn’t. This song’s really good, have you heard it yet?

Song: “Song for Zula” by Phosphorescent
Album: Muchacho
Year: 2013
Written By: Matthew Houck

My Relationship With This Song

Well, I think I saw a positive review of Muchacho on a website, so I added it on Rdio. I don’t even really read movie or music reviews anymore, except on Mildly Pleased. Did you guys know that? When I see an album got a solid rating on like AV Club or Pitchfork, I just add it to my collection. And with movies, kind of the same deal, I get a feel for the consensus, but don’t choose to read anything until I’ve seen something and liked it enough I want know how everybody else feels about it. So at some point Muchacho joined my library, then later I listened to it. I would say “Song for Zula” is the song that stuck out from that first listen, because it’s definitely the one that’s been in my head ever since. But it’s a really good album too.

Reasons Why I Love This Song

It’s the Second Song: The first song on Muchacho, “Sun, Arise! (An Invocation, An Introduction)” is really etherial and harmonic, it has a pretty strong Fleet Foxes vibe. And so I was getting ready for a different kind of album by the time that song ended and “Song for Zula” began. This stripped-down beauty stands in harsh contrast to that first track, and helps make it seem even more special.

Sad Bastardism: A lot of the music I’ve been listening to this year can be put into two groups: upbeat, fun women vocalists and tender, devastated men. Matthew Houck is a total sad bastard on “Song for Zula,” bearing himself as he explains how his real experiences with love are nothing like what everyone, Johnny Cash included, told him to expect. And he’s just as angry as he is hurt. If you get the deluxe version of Muchacho, it includes a live version of this song that’s just vocals and piano, and it’s terrific.

That Heartbeat: But it’s the real version of the song that we’re talking about. Throughout this minimalistic production, there is a simple, resounding bassline. Despite the beautiful synths, heavenly guitar, and evocative string section, it’s that bassline, that holds the whole song together. Something about a song about love having an actual heartbeat sounds really cliche, and also really good.

Why I Will Continue To Love This Song

Probably because I’ll be heavily revisiting my favorite albums of the year over the next month and a half as I come up with a top ten. But the real trick for any song is staying part of my regular rotation more than a year after I first heard it. Does “Song for Zula” have what it takes to hang with “Wolf Life Me” or “Age of Consent”? Probably not, but we’ll see.

Bonus points for me if I never misspelled “Zula” as “Zulu.”