9 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

Bill Callahan’s songs are like movies where the camera angle is slightly askew and the narrative gets lost to the quirks of the characters. Though dropping the Smog alias he’s recorded under since 1990, Callahan hasn’t changed his approach for this 13th album, but continues with the same lyrically intense and musically unvarnished indie-folk rock that make his lyrics sound both dire and comforting. “From the Rivers to the Ocean” includes violins and keyboards that in another’s hands would sound lush and grand, but here sandwiched between the raw slab of drums and Callahan’s unpretty voice it sounds like it belongs in a cardboard box in the attic. It’s this unsentimental bluntness that’s made Callahan an eyebrow-raiser in the past. Here, he tries a few dance moves. “Footprints” and “Diamond Dancer” have the ingredients to groove, but the rhythms deliberately halt to create an otherworldly alienation. Country music is also skewered (“The Wheel,” “A Man Needs a Woman Or a Man To Be A Man”) with clopping beats and Callahan’s detached innocent bystander vocal delivery again creating a palpable detachment. 

EDITORS’ NOTES

Bill Callahan’s songs are like movies where the camera angle is slightly askew and the narrative gets lost to the quirks of the characters. Though dropping the Smog alias he’s recorded under since 1990, Callahan hasn’t changed his approach for this 13th album, but continues with the same lyrically intense and musically unvarnished indie-folk rock that make his lyrics sound both dire and comforting. “From the Rivers to the Ocean” includes violins and keyboards that in another’s hands would sound lush and grand, but here sandwiched between the raw slab of drums and Callahan’s unpretty voice it sounds like it belongs in a cardboard box in the attic. It’s this unsentimental bluntness that’s made Callahan an eyebrow-raiser in the past. Here, he tries a few dance moves. “Footprints” and “Diamond Dancer” have the ingredients to groove, but the rhythms deliberately halt to create an otherworldly alienation. Country music is also skewered (“The Wheel,” “A Man Needs a Woman Or a Man To Be A Man”) with clopping beats and Callahan’s detached innocent bystander vocal delivery again creating a palpable detachment. 

TITLE TIME
6:35
2:47
4:00
5:35
4:03
4:39
4:32
3:04
5:13

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

  • ORIGIN
    Silver Spring, MD
  • BORN
    1966

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