Album Review // Bill Callahan // YTILAER
Years ago, when recording tapes in his bedroom, Smog (Bill Callahan) positioned himself amongst marginally appreciated outsider artists like Jandek. Decades later, we find him shoulder to shoulder with influential songwriters like Fred Neil and Leonard Cohen. His unfolding musicianship, seemingly simple in technique, shines brighter with each release. On YTILAER he embraces it, surrounding himself with talents like Jim White (Dirty Three) and Emmett Kelly (The Cairo Gang, Ty Segall). Callahan's baritone delivery is like slowly pouring sweet, thick syrup — so rich and filling. His songwriting has always been misanthropic, sardonic, acerbic, and deep. Yet these offerings shine light into his dark shadows. He is still Southern Gothic in soul, finding mystery in the mundane, and melancholy in the lighthearted as in "The Captain." However, "Natural Information" provides a joyful mix between a School House Rock and Richie Havens tune. He carries us through our waking moments when we question which is more real — our dreams or our daily life — and in "First Bird" embraces both. "Coyotes" reminds one of the brilliant marriage between pop music and unsettling folklore found in tunes like Michael Murphy's "Wildfire." This is an important recording which will be sought after down the road. Buy it now.