AOTY 2019

C'est La Vie

Phosphorescent - C'est La Vie
Critic Score
Based on 19 reviews
2018 Ratings: #352 / 736
User Score
Based on 85 ratings
2018 Ratings: #500
October 5, 2018 / Release Date
LP / Format
Dead Oceans / Label
Americana / Genres
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The Line of Best Fit

C’est La Vie once again finds Houck creating sumptuous soundscapes of scorched Americana that range from slow burning laments to tipsy waltzes, but this time around with a renewed flow and finesse.


His fine-grit tenor is still perfectly raspy, and his songs still hang effortlessly near the border between barstool country and warm-glow pop, with Houck’s experimental streak interloping into both territories. This is still Phosphorescent. It’s just that the man behind the wheel is older and a little bit wiser these days.

The Skinny

This has been billed as his most reflective album, a chance to make connections across his musical career but there’s a quiet confidence too, delivering some of his most intricate arrangements and roaming far beyond the Americana tag that he was often filed under.


What makes this nine-track/45-minute LP so fascinating is just how many ideas Houck injects into it, throwing layers of piano, wordless backing vocals and ambient effects into the mix.

The Guardian

What distinguishes C’est La Vie is Houck’s command of his material: there’s nothing here that sounds tentative or uncertain.

Under The Radar

C'est La Vie returns us to Houck's familiar territory: the gentle delivery, the slow build, the ambling pace, the Southern hospitality.


Everything you loved about the last few Phosphorescent records is still here, in abundance, but C’est La Vie seems more streamlined, more emotionally sincere.

The 405

Rather than being a tearjerker, C'est la Vie instead serves as something of a safeguard, a protective companion, a generous friend down paths of memory we may never have intended to traverse again, and that we'd shudder to travel alone. Phosphorescent's music is as giving and truly kind as ever.

Spectrum Culture

It’s a fine addition to an already stellar catalog, offering up that which fans have come to expect, while also showing the artist maturing along with his subject matter. C’est La Vie is not to be missed.


On C’est La Vie ... his voice cuts through inventive settings with a confidence, clarity, and sensibility that can vividly and unexpectedly recall 1980s Paul Simon, minus the global beats and entitled boomerness.

Northern Transmissions

If there’s one thing Phosphorescent has always nailed, it’s a powerful sense of guitar tone and ambiance. For his latest record, Phosphorescent leads strong with this energy but soon also moves into a distinctly pop energy.

Slant Magazine

C’est La Vie doesn’t thrum with the roiling tension of Muchacho, but in finding a sense of serenity and calm in whatever life throws at him, Houck strikes a balance between happiness and longing that’s often nothing short of sublime.


We’re thrown a little when it suddenly shifts gear, into golden Americana. But there’s gorgeous, candid song-craft at work.


C'est La Vie burns slowly and leaves impressions both spiritual and sonic that merit repeat listens.

The Observer

The core of C’est La Vie is radiant happiness, Houck’s familiar sounds buffed to a transcendent shine.

Consequence of Sound

C’est La Vie has moments of real beauty and depth while reflecting on fatherhood and settling down. But Houck should keep pushing into the strange, uncomfortable places where his best music gets made; now’s not the time to shrug it off.

Loud and Quiet

True to its name, ‘C’est La Vie’ hints at a carefree atmosphere, or an acceptance of the world as it is. Unfortunately, this also means that the album feels like it isn’t quite moving anywhere at all.

Charming little record right here, after my first spin I went right back for a second. Always a good sign. Nice and lean, albums in the 45-50 minute range often end up being my favorites.

New Birth in New England should be his next Song For Zula

After listening to this a bunch now, I think "There From Here" might be my favorite track.
Cheesy yet comforting.

Like comfort eating a big plate of cheese.

Wow, such a pleasant surprise. On first listen I greatly prefer this to Muchacho. I've always found Houck's music leaving something to be desired. Pretty good but could never understand the love given by his loyal fanbase. Happy to say I've finally connected with one of his albums and this is probably going to be my album of the week.
It’s been over five years since Phosphorescent’s phenomenal “Muchacho,” and Matthew Houck’s life experiences and personal growth in the interim inform the much-anticipated “C’est La Vie.” He’s still occupying the same psychedelic-Americana niche that nobody else has quite managed, and Houck is a pro at composing soundscapes, which give his songs a cinematic, larger-than-life quality. But in a few songs, especially “New Birth in New ... read more
Similar to The War On Drugs, this album transcends the divide between previous eras of music and now; incorporation of classic sounding guitar riffs and bluesy vibes while simultaneously breathing freshness into those styles with a more modern spin. I had a feeling that I would dig this, and I was not let down.

Favorite track: Christmas Down Under
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Track List

  1. Black Moon / Silver Waves
  2. C'est La Vie No.2
  3. New Birth in New England
  4. There From Here
  5. Around the Horn
  6. Christmas Down Under
  7. My Beautiful Boy
  8. These Rocks
  9. Black Waves / Silver Moon
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Added on: July 30, 2018