Showing posts with label bill callahan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bill callahan. Show all posts

Monday, June 17, 2019

video review: 'shepherd in a sheepskin vest' by bill callahan

Okay, so this was promising... long-winded both in the album and me talking about it, but I think this turned out alright enough.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN for the week and then... hmm, not sure. Stay tuned!

album review: 'shepherd in a sheepskin vest' by bill callahan

So I'd like to continue off of something I brought up in the Weyes Blood review and it does come with a bit of self-awareness on my part. I opened up that conversation with the discussion surrounding the sudden critical convergence that can happen around indie acts for a single project that can leave just as quickly, but there's another category of acts in an adjacent lane: the indie acts who do get consistent critical acclaim, but never seem to reach the larger conversation. A lot of singer-songwriters and smaller-scale acts wind up in this group, the folks who will reliably make critics' year-end lists, but rarely at the top, and while they will have a persistent cult following, they tend to be artists that even critics forget to revisit - until, out of the blue, they decide on a lark to give the album a spin and are stuck wondering why they don't put it on more often. Which is not quite as bad of a situation as what happens to the one-album-critical-darling, but can be deflating for an artist who would probably wish their name came up in the conversation a bit more.

And for me, I can't think of many acts that fit the bill more than Bill Callahan, previously known as Smog for a string of good-to-spectacular albums throughout the 90s and 2000s - until he switched to using his own name in 2007 and the quality never seemed to stop. And I'll admit I was late to the party - I first heard some of his work with Apocalypse in 2011, but it was Dream River in 2013 that really sealed the deal, a stunningly subtle and potent album that featured one of my favourite songs of that year in 'Summer Painter' and brought a level of cohesion and laconic focus to his brand of writing and production. It's rare to confront a singer-songwriter who can say and imply so much with so few words - in the 2010s the only singer-songwriter who comes close to what Callahan delivers is Courtney Marie Andrews, and even then stylistically they're in different phases of their career and very different lanes, but there is a similar road-weary, textured atmosphere both can command that gives their words so much more. But it's been a while since we've heard from Callahan - he put out a dub album covering Dream River in 2014 and a live album in 2018, but it's been a while since we've gotten new material... and he's got a lot of it, a full double album with a renewed focus on his current domestic life. Now I'll admit I've had mixed results with these sorts of projects, just because of the phase of life I'm in - it was one of the reasons Lori McKenna's The Tree didn't quite hit as strongly for me last year, and there's someone else who deserves to be in this conversation - and twenty songs of Bill Callahan's style and cadence is a lot, but I figured I'd let this sink in, so what did we get out of Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

the top 25 best albums of 2013

And now we're down to the final list - my top twenty-five albums of 2013. This year, I reviewed 135 albums - and frankly, I should have done more. But I feel it's a plenty big sample size to discuss my choices, and all of these earned their slots on this list. I'll also try to keep this as quick as I possibly can - I've already talked about all of these albums in detail, and you should all check out my reviews if you want a more in-depth discussion. Also, my list isn't exactly going to correspond with common critical consensus - there are albums I have picked that have been ignored, and there are certain albums that some critics lauded that I didn't find nearly as strong. Got all that? Good, because we're not waiting any longer, let's GO!

the top 50 best songs of 2013 (PART TWO: 25-1)

Whew, that takes care of that.

Last one is the long-awaited albums of the year - stay tuned!

the top 50 best songs of 2013

Some of you are probably scratching your heads with confusion at the title of this list and wondering, 'Wait, didn't he already make this exact same list a few days ago?' Well, this list is significantly different than the last one, mostly because we're no longer talking about the hits. No, these are the songs, singles or otherwise, that appeared on the albums I listened through this year and stuck with me. They aren't the hits - most of you might not recognize the songs I mention, but all of them bear the highest of my personal recommendations. That's right, from the 135 albums I reviewed this year, these were my favourite songs. I'm not segregating them by genre or success - singles or deep cuts all have a chance to make this list, which was initially reduced from thousands down to 436, which was then narrowed down to fifty. And believe me, even with that I had to make some painful cuts, and what is on this list will surprise you. So, without any more delay, here are my Top 50 Songs of 2013! Let's get started!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

video review: 'dream river' by bill callahan

Jesus Christ, this took way too long to upload. The internet has been terrible all evening, but finally I got it up and working in order to get this review up. Honestly, I'm kind of really happy with this review - it's more free-form than ever, and I'd like to think that there's some decent emotion here too. And for good reason, because Dream River is incredible.

Returning to country tomorrow, stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

album review: 'dream river' by bill callahan

You know, I can't believe I'm saying this, but here it is: I think I might be softening my opinion on white guys with acoustic guitars.

I know. Believe me, I'm as shocked as you guys inevitably are. But really, it's not quite as simple as my tastes changing but more in line with a hunt for something I've had some trouble finding in music: texture. Keep in mind this isn't a reflexive hatred of pop music either, even though pop can have some of the least amounts of texture in music as a genre, but rather a search for music that has feeling and is organic and comes from a place of real emotion and depth. And while I doubt I'll ever have enough passion for acoustic music that I'll teach myself guitar or something, I have realized that more instrumental texture tends to survive the sanding process of the music industry if one goes to the independent scene. 

Because when it comes down to it, I'm a guy who cherishes honest emotions and well-written songs rooted in those emotions. That's one reason I tend to like country and folk over the general 'acoustic' scene - if you're just writing songs to pick up chicks and get laid, you're going to be dismissed as a hapless novice by songwriters who have a real story to tell. And if said stories can be paired with rich, gripping instrumentation that deftly accents and emphasizes the elements of the story... well, that's ultimately where I find plenty of my favourite songs from acts like Bob Dylan and Nick Cave and Richard Thompson and others. 

So with that in mind, let's talk about Bill Callahan.

Now for those of you who don't know, Bill Callahan has been around the edges of the indie acoustic scene since the 90s, often performing under the name of Smog. Only in recent years has he chosen to perform under his own name and release a series of critically acclaimed albums steeped in folk and Americana. So, as somebody who likes both genres and who was seeking some great instrumental texture from a man who has spent over 20 years making music, I was interested to see how his new album Dream River turned out. And...