Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Musicalia: Bill Callahan Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle

Over the past three years or so, there has not been an album that I have listened to as much as A River Ain't Too Much To Love despite the fact that Bill Callahan has put out a record since last recording under the moniker of Smog. While Woke on a Whaleheart was not bad by any means, there was something about A River Ain't Too Much To Love that resonated with me on a basic level that the first proper Bill Callahan LP failed to do.

Well, River, I think you've been unseated. On his newest record, Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle, Bill Callahan has concocted a perfect blend of the darker themes of A River Ain't Too Much To Love and the lusher arrangements and richer production of Woke on a Whaleheart. This merging has meant that I have been virtually unable to listen to anything else when reaching for an album to throw on.

From the opener "Jim Cain"--a shortening of James M. Cain (whose work Double Indemnity I recently blogged about), who had always bristled at the label of a hard-boiled crime novelist and held a passion for being a singer that never worked out--to the closer "Faith/Void"--in which he suggests that "it's time to put God away"--Callahan takes us on a rambling ride through his world, one filled with horses, birds, and wind. Guiding the listener by hand is his voice, the irregular cadence of which allows it to act as an instrument different than most. Fleshing out the entire album are tasteful, unimposing strings arranged by Brian Beattie, and in songs like "All Thoughts Are Prey To Some Beasts" and "Eid Ma Clack Shaw" (I've checked and have yet to find out what the chorus means) the rhythm section adds a dimension of propulsion not entirely common in Callahan's work.

What I'm really saying, though, is that I love this new album. When I reach for a Smog/Bill Callahan release, this will be the first one I grab, and that's saying a lot.

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