Woke On a Whaleheart

Woke On a Whaleheart

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. 

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