Bill Callahan – Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

Austin resident Bill Callahan is more widely known for his releases under the Smog moniker, but the release of his second “solo” album will surely have heads turning in the direction of his future; his most recent ventures seem to be the most focused of any of his releases, which definitely prove beneficial to the listener.

Of course, there is really only one instrument on this album that is truly worthy of discussion, and that has to be the ragged baritone vocals of Callahan himself.  His voice is easily identifiable, but it also serves as the predominant element that courses through the entirety of the album.  Everything else seems to play second-fiddle to the vocals, and one can presume that that is precisely where Callahan would like to leave us.

Take, for instance, “Eid Ma Clack Shaw,” the album’s first released single.  The song is comprised mostly of two elements: one being the voice of Callahan, the other being tinkering piano that bounces gleefully in step with the vocals. “The Wind and the Dove” follows just after, and you’re caught on the brief moments when the pitch and delivery seem to change just the slightest bit, creating a sense of reserve.  Both songs emphasize the voice rather than the music, although this isn’t saying that the music is altogether uninteresting. One merely needs to listen to the gentleness in the production, even when other elements are added to the textural mix of the song, such as the female vocals that filter in and out of “Rococo Zephyr.”

This entire outing seems to come out of a place of reserve, as if Callahan is taking his time to think things through, watching the world around slowly go by each day.  Lyrically, the songs approach various levels of observation and commentary on fairly mundane things, but developed in the way only Bill can do.  Even the song titles seem to illustrate the idea of thought, and other such processes, which is apparently where a lot of the album stems from, as Bill admits to being a bit restless during the recording of the majority of the album.

At the end of the journey, you’ll find one of the longest songs in the Bill Callahan/Smog repertoire, which isn’t entirely a bad thing.  It’s the perfect bookend to the album, as the narrator here admits that it’s time to put some things away, such as God.  With the album coming to a close, it’s time to put it away, as Bill has clearly made his point.  He’s crafted a set of mellow semi-folk tunes using his voice as the instrument and his lyrics as your guide through his world and his thoughts.  It’s a good run through from start to finish.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/03-the-wind-and-the-dove.mp3]

Download: Bill Callahan – The Wind and the Dove [MP3]

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