Califone Stitches Dead Oceans (2013)Califone - Stitches Album ReviewPeople go to the desert to find themselves. Califone's honey-baritoned lead singer Tim Ruttili went looking for himself in the endless sands of the American Southwest, and with their latest, Stitches, returns with the band's most vital and compelling record since 2003's Quicksands/Cradlesnakes. Stitches was recorded at various locations across Arizona, Texas and Southern California, where Rutilli's been living for the past few years. This is the first Califone record to be recorded outside of their native Chicago; they've traded steel and chrome skyscrapers for wide open skies and the promise of the sea. This translocation has had a profound impact on Califone's music; Stitches radiates stillness and expansiveness, the aural equivalent of driving in the sun across the Mojave, or watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
Califone - "Stitches" - DOWNLOAD MP3 [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Califone-Stitches.mp3|titles=Califone - Stitches]

Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy What The Brothers Sang Drag City Can we appreciate older music, without it being retrostylized, sculpted and reconfigured for modern ears? Will Oldham, the right honorable Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, and Dawn McCarthy (of Faun Fables fame) seem to think so, dishing up thirteen slices of pure unadulterated Americana on What The Brothers Sang. In 2013, we are seeing an increasing trend of reissue labels, tribute bands, and artist-curated mixtapes (read Simon Reynold's Retromania for an exhaustively thorough look at the issue). It's just an exaggeration of what has always been going on in pop music: artists referencing bands referencing musicians. Any aspiring musicologist will follow the riverbed to the source of inspiration. The Everly Brothers themselves explored a similar theme, with their 1968 album Roots. On this most recent collaboration between BPB and Dawn McCarthy, the pair act as tour guides through The Everly's catalog, which in turn acts as a microcosm of American music of the '50s and '60s. The Everly Brothers themselves didn't write many of their hit singles, so Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Dawn McCarthy end up paying tribute to Ron Eliot, Kris Kristofferson, Tony Romeo, and the duo of Boudleaux & Felice Bryan, who wrote many of The Everly Brother's first hit singles. They focus more on deep cuts than the obvious hits. There's no "Wake Up Little Susie", no "Bye Bye Love", no "All I Have To Do Is Dream"; some of these songs have only seen the light of day on ultra-rare completist boxsets. It seems like Oldham and McCarthy are enthusiasts and patrons of the Everly's art, and just want to spread the gospel.
Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy – "Milk Train" (The Everly Brothers Cover) The Everly Brothers – "Milk Train" (Original)

 

Born With Stripes is a chameleon of an album. It starts off with a catchy, pop -- "accessible indie," as I like to call it -- number, entitled "We Don't Know Who We Are." This album has so many varied styles (from blues to psychedelic to Indian-influenced) that I don't think this album quite knows who it is; but that's okay.

This first track and its two subsequent tracks have been on consistent rotation in my brain since I first listened to this disc. Track two, "I Like The Way You Walk," is a very inviting tune, and it does associate well with "We Don't Know Who We Are"; these two songs are from the same family, as it were. However, track three, "Bloodhound," enters the scene and all bets are off. This is the stone cold blues track of Born With Stripes. It is easily my vote for best track on the entire album. With lines like, "I'll need a bloodhound just to track her down, but she'll be mine again," and carefully-placed background "oooo-oooo"'s, it is difficult not to love this song. But that's the genius of blues; it is a stereotypically cool genre of music (and what a nice stereotype to have!).

The "West Coast Raga" and later "East Coast Raga" would fit in well as B-Sides to The Beatles' 1966 classic Revolver, with their sitar sounds, spiraling guitar lines, and hypnotic basslines and drum beats. These tracks stick out and clash with the other tracks until about halfway through these songs, when the listener gets enveloped by them; and, at that point, it is all aural gravy. A friend overheard me listening to "Bullfrog Blues" and said it could very easily be a lost Lovin' Spoonful track. On that note, I feel that "New Blue Stockings" has a Doors-y or Jefferson Airplane-y motif to it. So, the '60s are represented very well in this disc.

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