Posts tagged “Bill Callahan

The best albums of 2013: The top 20

Arcade Fire made the best album of the year and Savages released the top debut I heard. Mikal Cronin recorded pure pop bliss, while the new Deerhunter album reminded me how lucky we are to have Bradford Cox churning out intriguing music. See the full list for the year’s top 10 albums below.

1. Arcade Fire – Reflektor. The latest from Arcade Fire is far more diverse and imaginative than the Grammy-winning album The Suburbs. Produced by James Murphy, Reflektor mixes disco, Caribbean, dub and other styles. There is more than a nod to the Clash’s Sandinista!

2. Savages – Silence Yourself. This is an aggressive debut from a U.K. female quartet that pays homage to earlier post-punk bands. Think of Siouxsie and the Banshees only tougher.

3. Mikal Cronin – MCII. Cronin makes great music, but he really over achieved on this hook-laden record. Irresistible pop from Ty Segall’s collaborator.

4. Deerhunter – Monomania. Even by Deerhunter standards, this album is pretty edgy and raw. It’s one of the more overlooked albums this year.

5. The National – Trouble Will Find Me. The latest from the National doesn’t hit you in the face. But the depth of the songs will pay off after repeated listens.

6. Bill Callahan – Dream River. Callahan more often resembles a poet than a singer, speaking through his songs in his deep, impassive voice.

7. Kurt Vile –  Walkin on a Pretty Daze. As meditative as this album sounds at points, Vile lays down some serious guitar licks. An original musician with a distinctive sound, he sometimes reminds me of mid-70s Neil Young.

8. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt. This is a personal-sounding album from Katie Crutchfield, who performs as Waxahatchee. The songs and music are reminiscent of the very best parts of Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville.

9. The Men – New Moon. While New Moon explores a hodgepodge of styles, the new love for country rock stands out. Maybe because the album was recorded in a cabin?

10. Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin. Some day, I expect Thee Oh Sees will make the No. 1 album of the year (at least on my list). Frenetic, infectious rock ‘n’ roll. Sheer enjoyment.

Rounding out the top 20:

11. Superchunk – I Hate Music. Elder indie rock statesmen make a record to keep your head nodding and feet moving. A strong offering from a band who has been going for almost a quarter century.

12. Foxygen –  We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. This has to be one of the most fun albums of the year from guys who take a real tongue-in-cheek approach to ’60s and ’70s genres.

13. Cass McCombs – Big Wheel and Others. Here is an excellent collection of songs from a great singer-songwriter. If you pare it down to the very best tracks, this would be a top 10 album.

14. Polvo – Siberia. What a great comeback for these ’90s noise warriors. Essentially, they stick to the same formula but it sounds fresh today.

15. Ty Segall / Fuzz –  Sleeper / Fuzz. We again see the two sides of the prolific Bay-area rocker. With its slow to mid-tempo acoustic and electric numbers, Sleeper is similar to Segall’s 2011 release Goodbye Bread, while his new band Fuzz pays tribute to stoner rock from four decades ago.

16. King Khan & the Shrines – Idle No More. If you listen to just the upbeat, soulful music, you’ve got a great dance party. Underneath, Khan wants to make a statement about the wretched world we live in after battling his personal demons.

17. Queens of the Stone Age – Like Clockwork. I really didn’t think Josh Homme had another good album in him (at least not as Queens), but Like Clockwork is a rollicking good time.

18. The Love Language – Ruby Red. Listening to the full sound of Ruby Red, you wouldn’t know the Love Language originally started as a guy making bedroom recordings. Stuart McLamb created a powerful pop album that’s also a blast.

19. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II. The second album from Unknown Mortal Orchestra is quirky, funky and sometimes breezy like its predecessor but I like the songs better on this one.

20. Wavves – Afraid of Heights. The latest album from Nathan Williams doesn’t stray far from King of the Beach (2011). Afraid of Heights is tighter and rocks harder.

Honorable mention. Here are some other albums you should check out: Majical Cloudz, Impersonator; Swearin’, Surfing Strange; Crocodiles, Crimes of Passion; Iceage, You’re Nothing; Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus Seven; No Age, An Object; Yo La Tengo, Fade; Fidlar, Fidlar; Suuns, Images Du Futur; and Charles Bradley, Victim of Love.

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Best bet: Bill Callahan plays Alhambra Palace Monday

Last May, Bill Callahan played Garfield Park Conservatory, a unique venue for a Chicago show. On Monday, Callahan is back to support his new album, Dream River, and this time he’s playing another unusual spot, Alhambra Palace west of downtown. It’s an early show and should be a good one. The new album gets better with each listen. Read my initial thoughts on Dream River here.

Bill Callahan gives us another gem with ‘Dream River’

“The only words I said today are beer and thank you. Beer. Thank you. Beer. Thank you,” Bill Callahan sings on his opening track, The Sing, from his just-released album Dream River. His lyrics can be sparse and his recording style remains simple but there’s something just intoxicating enough about Callahan’s music that brings me back. Callahan had an unenviable task of following up the superb 2011 release Apocalypse, but Dream River doesn’t disappoint. You certainly have to like this style of music (at least a little) but even if it’s not exactly your thing, Callahan has a seductive, disarming style that slowly draws you in. Comparisons are tough. Bonnie Prince Billy? Silver Jews? Leonard Cohen? You could lump him in with a wide swath of singer songwriters, but, as the best of the bunch usually prove, each artist is uniquely original. Callahan’s sound is fresh and interesting.

I love the musical style, too. It’s a mix of lounge, world, pop, folk, indie, and, I’m sure, a few more genres I’m forgetting. The music often serve as a background for Callahan’s poetic observations delivered in his deep, impassive voice. Dream River is an intriguing album and definitely recommended.

Explore Bill Callahan’s ‘America’

I can’t let this Fourth of July pass without posting the awesome video for Bill Callahan’s America. The song is on the excellent Apocalypse from 2011.

Bill Callahan plays Chicago set

Bill Callahan hasn’t yet followed up his great piece of work, Apocalypse, from 2011, but there was a tour documentary released last year. Callahan is on the road for several tour dates this month, including one in Chicago at the Garfield Park Conservatory Monday (May 6). Doors open 6:30 and the show is 7 with Flat Foot opening. Garfield Park Conservatory is at 300 N. Central Park Ave. in Chicago.

Advance tickets appear to be gone. The show is being put on by Land and Sea Dept.

UPDATE: Bad news for you Bill Callahan fans who didn’t buy a ticket in advance: The show tonight (Monday) is sold out.

Video: Bill Callahan covers 1960s singer-songwriter Mickey Newbury

Chicago indie record company Drag City recently reissued music from 1960s and ’70s singer-songwriter Mickey Newbury. Now the label released a split 7 inch featuring Newbury plus Bill Callahan covering one of Newbury’s songs, Heaven Help the Child.

Check out the video of Callahan singing the song below.

All the Young Punks’ best songs of 2009 (Part I)

It was a bountiful year for finding good new bands. Rather than doing a traditional top 10 or 20 songs of the year, I’m going to devote at least a couple of posts this week to tracks that made my playlists.

For this first post, I’ll focus on bands I discovered for the first time in 2009. Portugal. The Man made a great retro-sounding song in People Say. I like almost everything the Builders and the Butchers put out (same goes for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart). Girls, The xx and Sin Fang Bous were pleasant surprises.

Here’s some of the year’s best.

People Say – Portugal. The Man

Short Way Home – The Builders and the Butchers

Melt Down The Knives – Sin Fang Bous

A Violent Translation of the Concordia Headscarp – Emperor X

Beneath Your Tree – Bowerbirds

Lust For Life – Girls

Let’s Go Surfing – The Drums

Crystalised – The xx

Come Saturday – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Eid Ma Clack Shaw – Bill Callahan

Overnite Religion – Kurt Vile

Black & Blue – Miike Snow

Sleepyhead – Passion Pit

Lakeside – BLK JKS

Priestess – Imaad Wasif