On his second album under the name Phosphorescent, visionary alt-folk singer-songwriter Matthew Houck continues his habit of recording songs so long that they have to be split into pieces. Aw Come Aw Wry's title track comes in fragments, scattered throughout the record, and the song "Endless" appears twice, as "Pt. 1" and "Pt. 2." Even Aw Come Aw Wry's regular tracks sprawl past the five-minute mark, roaming in circles near-obsessively. The album's best song, "Joe Tex, These Taming Blues," begins with a touch of sad brass and a funereal beat, as Houck croaks, "Is it ever going to not be so hard to see you around? / Am I really, really, really, really going to have to, really going to have to, really have to leave town?" The hyperbolic heartache breaks only on the bridge, where the horns get louder, steel guitar swoops in and out, and Houck starts having celestial visions. Those tiny climaxes throughout "Joe Tex" offer just a little relief from a gloom as imposing and inevitable as a storm front.
The collected members of Phosphorescent have debts to pay to Sparklehorse and My Morning Jacket, and it's hard to deny how much Houck himself sounds like Will Oldham at his moaniest. But Houck's voice has more definition and range than Oldham's, and his recording-mates—drawn in part from the vestiges of Athens, Georgia's neo-psychedelic scene—make a fuller, hookier racket than a lot of loping indie-roots-rockers. Aw Come Aw Wry's scope and texture are evident in songs like "I Am A Full Grown Man (I Will Lay In The Grass All Day)," with its lazy-day reveries and telegraph-wire guitars, and in the molasses-slow gospel sounds of "Lost Name" and the deeply stirring "Dead Heart." The album closes with "Nowhere Rd., Georgia, Feb. 21, 2005," which consists of more than 20 minutes of ambient outdoor noise. It's both a sonic trip and a blueprint for what the rest of the album tries to achieve with instruments and words.