9 Songs, 48 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

With one of music’s most deadpanned vocal deliveries, Bill Callahan, who performed for years as Smog, often sounds like an outside observer even when fully immersed in the action around him. It allows him to pursue the poetry of the moment and make it feel as if he’s a cinematographer simply recording the events unfolding. It also allows him to deliver lines that could be punchlines served up as straightlines and vice versa. Callahan doesn’t give much away; he sounds like the voice of reason even as he admits he isn’t sure where the creative lines are being drawn. “Eid Ma Clack Shaw” features a nonsensical chorus since the one he dreamed that was “the perfect song/ that held all the answers” apparently got lost in translation. The music on Eagle is rich and orchestrated, settling on quiet moments where pianos, bass guitar and Callahan’s deep vocal strains add ominous turns of events. The dark finality of “The Wind and the Dove” uses strings and downcast chords. “Rococo Zephyr” adds touches of acoustic guitar and simple rolling rhythms. It it's music to sedate the body as a world of contemplation opens before us.

EDITORS’ NOTES

With one of music’s most deadpanned vocal deliveries, Bill Callahan, who performed for years as Smog, often sounds like an outside observer even when fully immersed in the action around him. It allows him to pursue the poetry of the moment and make it feel as if he’s a cinematographer simply recording the events unfolding. It also allows him to deliver lines that could be punchlines served up as straightlines and vice versa. Callahan doesn’t give much away; he sounds like the voice of reason even as he admits he isn’t sure where the creative lines are being drawn. “Eid Ma Clack Shaw” features a nonsensical chorus since the one he dreamed that was “the perfect song/ that held all the answers” apparently got lost in translation. The music on Eagle is rich and orchestrated, settling on quiet moments where pianos, bass guitar and Callahan’s deep vocal strains add ominous turns of events. The dark finality of “The Wind and the Dove” uses strings and downcast chords. “Rococo Zephyr” adds touches of acoustic guitar and simple rolling rhythms. It it's music to sedate the body as a world of contemplation opens before us.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5

85 Ratings

Particular, elusive yet familiar

Cococove,

Callahan's songs and style, like those of other talented people (if previous reviewer is more talented than Callahan, I'd like to meet her), take time to get to know. The simple honesty of the lyrics can be mistaken for plain old simplicity upon first listen. The arrangements are also paradoxical, complex yet child-like. The music is almost embarassingly direct, yet instantly inviting, sung in open prose in a bass violin-like voice. This album is decidedly darker than Woke on a Whaleheart, yet tempered with his customary hope and wonder. And, like Whaleheart, it is build like a novel; at the end you've been taken somewhere.

Jim Cain

lookout55,

Stephen Thompson, from NPR Music suggested that these songs "plant themselves in your brain, [and] lay eggs..." Callahan's music has this enigmatic ability. After listening to this record, you will find yourself unconciously mumbling the half-remembered words and music as you go through your day - walking about, in the restroom...whenever your mind is free to wander.

This record isn't great or perfect by any means, in fact there a songs that are almost embarassingly awkward - making you wonder, "what was he thinking?" etc. However, the opening track, "Jim Cain" is among his finest works, second only to "Palimpsest" from "A River Ain't Too Much to Love."

"Jim Cain" alone is reason to pick up this record. It will knock you out - easily, my favorite song of the year.

About Bill Callahan

After almost 20 years of using the alias Smog for his music, Bill Callahan switched to his given name for his releases after 2005's A River Ain't Too Much to Love. The 2007 EP Diamond Dancer and full-length Woke on a Whaleheart both mixed the intimate, reflective, largely acoustic sound of later Smog albums like Supper and A River with gospel, soul, and pop elements, and boasted arrangements by former Royal Trux mastermind Neil Hagerty. For 2009's Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle, Callahan returned to the more intimate acoustic-based sound of latter-era Smog albums, featuring string and brass arrangements by Brian Beattie. The live album Rough Travel for a Rare Thing arrived in March 2010, and in July Callahan issued his 79-page "epistolary novelette" Letters to Emma Bowlcut, comprised of 62 letters from a nameless protagonist to a woman he saw at a party. Callahan kicked off 2011 with Apocalypse, a more uptempo collection of seven country- and blues-inspired rock tunes that recalled some of his edgier work with Smog. A softer offering, Dream River, was issued in the fall of 2013. The next year Have Fun with God surfaced, remixing the eight tracks of Dream River in more haunted and electronic styles. ~ Heather Phares

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