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Red Apple Falls

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Album Review

Over the course of his previous albums, Bill Callahan explored every nuance of humor and despair; with 1997's Red Apple Falls, he adds hope and possibility to Smog's scope. Musically, the album concentrates on spacious, acoustic-based music rather than Callahan's prior lo-fi experiments. With flourishes of piano, horns, drum machines, and pedal steel, Red Apple Falls appropriates the best of folk, rock, and country, defying easy classification. "Blood Red Bird" and "Red Apples" focus on Callahan's voice and mournful pianos, while epics like "Red Apple Falls" and "Inspirational" use weepy steel guitars for maximum emotional impact. Lyrically, the album's intensity and clarity is equally strong: motifs of apples, horses, and widows thread through the album, evoking rustic, traditional songs as they tell the story of a star-crossed love affair. "Most of my fantasies are to be of use/like a spindle, like a candle," Callahan sings on "To Be of Use," blending pain, pleasure, selfishness, and selflessness in a typically Smog manner. But the best songs here combine the album's musical expansiveness and lyrical intensity. On "I Was a Stranger" Callahan sings, "Why do you women in this town let me look at you so bold?/You should have seen what I was in the last town/Or in the last town/I was worse than a stranger/I was well known," backed by more sighing steel guitars. "Ex Con" blends synth washes, horns, and a stiff, mechanical beat in a unique country/new wave hybrid, emphasizing the bleak wit of lyrics like "Out on the streets/I feel like a robot by the river/Looking for a drink." Another fine addition to Callahan's distinguished, distinctive body of work.


Formed: 1966 in Silver Spring, MD

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

An under-recognized pioneer of the lo-fi revolution, Smog was essentially the alias of one Bill Callahan, an enigmatic singer/songwriter whose odd, fractured music neatly epitomized the tenets and excesses of the home-recording boom. Melancholy, poignant, and self-obsessed, Callahan's four-track output offered a peepshow view into an insular world of alienation and inner turmoil, his painfully intimate songs ping-ponging wildly through a scrapbook of childhood recollections, failed relationships,...
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Red Apple Falls, Smog
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