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Roots and Crowns

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iTunes Review

This smartly-titled album, the eighth and best to date by this Chicago-based group, sounds like nothing so much as the perfect experimental country-rock band that Wilco and Sonic Youth have yet to get together and form. You hear a lot about folk revivals every few years, right? Well, one might say that Roots and Crowns is where folk and blues sounds have gone to start a new life. Califone makes exceptional recombinant roots music which dreamily evokes the Delta mud, Appalachian hills, Big Star country, and the murky ether of computer time/space. The banjos are distorted, the vocals whispered and sleepy. The guitars are deliciously bluesy and the hillbilly banjos drone along, while that junkyard percussion was precisely looped on a Mac. Tim Rutili and co. pull the traditional verse-chorus-verse heart of the rock song apart with childish glee to see what makes it tick, then glue it back together in ways that are just slightly (and excellently) "off." The result is often a sort of thinking man's jam band. It's remarkable a band this good is still playing smaller clubs; perhaps Roots & Crowns will help to change that.

Customer Reviews

best album of 2006

I've been listening a lot to the Califone album I bought a couple of weeks ago, and I have to agree with the people who said that this is their best album yet. It is a masterpiece from start to finish, and it's uniquely Califone. I was very impressed by previous efforts, notably cradlesnakes and roomsound, but even those albums were a little uneven. At times, you got a glimpse of Califone's potential. On their new album, called Roots and Crowns, they totally hit the mark. Like their previous albums, their music is always walking the line between the melodic and the atmospheric. They get labeled "anti-folk" or "post-folk" a lot, sort of like Wilco, but that's only because they are difficult to pigeonhole and people are grasping at straws by doing so. A better way to characterize the music would be to say that they sound like music a thirty-year old man might make in his head if given a diet of only Beatles' Rubber Soul and Revolver, ramen noodles, and film noir. The production is lush, refined and multi-layered. The song writing is remarkable and, at times--like on standout tracks "Chinese Actor," "Black Metal Valentine" and "3 Legged Animals"-- glorious. They use a lot of acoustic guitars, and some strings with a rather subdued and apocolyptic rhythm section. The mood is simple and vague; it's at once haunting and beautiful, much like those Beatles albums and the genre film noir. It is the sound of being both lost and in love and being alright with that. In short, this is an artful masterpiece. It is the best album that I've heard this year, and it's not even close. Everyone should buy this album whether you're a Califone fan or not. you'll thank me later. I may end up eating my words, but I doubt it.

Reviewers are calling this Califone's best, and there's a reason

Roots & Crowns cross-breeds Califone's past efforts—like the stunning 'Quicksand/Cradlesnakes' and the frightening 'Heron King Blues'—to create a lovely, dark, coherent whole. Roots & Crowns is another leap forward, which should be no surprise to fans, as Tim Rutili and Co. continue to break ground with each new release—and astound in the live setting, too. Roots & Crowns is also addictive and accessable, and will surely draw new listeners into the fray. This is one more masterpiece from the critically-acclaimed Chicago/L.A. collective. Get it, stat!

Don't sleep on this

So good, so natural-like the musics always been there and was taken from the air. Great percussion, vocals, imagery. The sounds shift, invent, turning into noisy bits, rusty and beautiful and you're along for the ride.


Formed: 1998 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

After the disintegration of Chicago's blues-rock innovators Red Red Meat, the band's four remaining members struck out on their own, initiating several varied endeavors but never straying too far from their home base, or each other. Ben Massarella and Tim Rutili revived their Perishable Records imprint, Brian Deck opened the Clava recording studios, adjacent to the Perishable offices, and Tim Hurley recorded and released his own Sin Ropas project on the resurrected label. Amid the flurry of activity,...
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Roots and Crowns, Califone
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