The fast follow-up LP is all the time a sketchy proposition. It occurs on a regular basis: An artist places a variety of effort into a press release album, piling up extra songs than they will use. Upon completion, their inventive juices are flowing, so that they determine to maintain going. A second batch of songs arrives rapidly, assembled from the primary undertaking’s surplus (or no less than constructed on that basis). The outcomes are sometimes pleasant, however they not often surpass the earlier effort. Consider Sufjan Stevens piling his Illinois overflow into The Avalanche, Seaside Home dropping a few of Melancholy Cherry’s sparkle on Thank Your Fortunate Stars, Jeff Tweedy fairly clearly presenting Heat’s microwaved leftovers on Hotter. Radiohead’s Amnesiac is a exceptional murals, however anybody who tells you it’s higher than Child A is laughably, catastrophically filled with shit. So when Invoice Callahan introduced Gold File, I used to be suspicious.
The singer-songwriter previously generally known as Smog returned from a six-year absence with final 12 months’s Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest, a beneficiant 20-song set that discovered him settled down in Texas with a spouse and youngster, sounding older however in some way much less weary at age 53. Now not a tortured soul driving for the sensation, Callahan was peacefully anchored at dwelling, permitting himself to like and be cherished, reflecting on home life through serene poetry tempered by blunt comedy. It was as if “Costume Attractive At My Funeral” had morphed from a smirking fantasy right into a contently sighing actuality. Backed by minimal, natural instrumentation that glowed like twilight, Callahan’s outdated fixations on intercourse, dying, and nature remained, softened and sobered however nonetheless sometimes surreal. On “Accomplice Jasmine,” he imagined howling wolves threatening his son’s life by day and awakening his spouse for bloody intercourse by evening.
Callahan had clearly crafted Shepherd with care, and the album’s prolonged tracklist urged he had not held again. Thus, when he introduced this previous June that he’d be releasing 10 extra new songs below the title Gold File, it was pure to marvel if we’d be getting Sheepskin scraps. To be clear, Invoice Callahan’s scraps are nothing to show your nostril up at; anybody who has hung out below the spell of Knock Knock or A River Ain’t Too A lot To Love or Apocalypse is aware of you don’t flip down new music from this man, particularly not after going the higher a part of a decade with none. This new music simply most likely wouldn’t be as noteworthy because the music that preceded it.
Extremely, although, not solely is Gold File its personal album with its personal distinct vibe, it could even be higher than Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest. Definitely there’s connective tissue between the 2 data — a shared sense of place and perspective, a continued desire for easygoing acoustic preparations that do extra with much less. His songs nonetheless casually amble into their epiphanies, as if implicitly posing the query, “What’s the push?” The hazard and unpredictability that coursed via his older data is as soon as once more changed by straight-faced admissions like, “The infants make me really feel comfortable/ With eyes like honey-drunk bees.” However the dreamy, impressionistic haze that was draped all around the final album usually evaporates right here, and Callahan has broadened past a singleminded deal with his household to make room for brief tales, character research, and even one thing like music criticism. “It feels good to be writing once more,” he famously sang in one in every of Shepherd’s most meta moments, acknowledging that he was getting again into his zone after a protracted stretch of inactivity. It seems he was simply getting began.
You most likely know this by now. Regardless of that headline up high, there’s nothing untimely about this analysis. Reasoning that Gold File is his model of a stack of hit singles, Callahan has been rolling out the album all summer time, one track per week, main as much as its launch this Friday. 9 of the 10 tracks are already out, leaving solely nearer “As I Wander” to be revealed. By releasing Shepherd in chunks and permitting its runtime to stretch out previous an hour, Callahan invited you to get misplaced in his reverie. Against this, Gold File’s weekly drops have given every monitor its highlight second, an opportunity for listeners to zero in on every track and absorb the main points that elevate Callahan past so many would-be wizened sages: the piercing knowledge that modifications your notion of the world, the weak confessions that bombard your coronary heart from shock angles, the idiosyncratic phrasing and impressed asides. When you’ve been following alongside, you’re properly conscious of what a scorching streak he’s on.
Gold File finds Callahan on the peak of his powers, exhibiting off what number of completely different sorts of nice songs he can funnel his persona into. They’re tied collectively by his present tendency to let his deep, authoritative voice lie low inside a quiet association, beckoning you to come back over and seize a seat. A passive listener won’t discover a lot distinction between the whistling Western pastiche “Cowboy” and the musician’s travelogue “As I Wander,” on which Callahan imagines himself as a practice conductor guiding his viewers safely dwelling. The identical conversational baritone guides us via the somber self-reflection “35” (“I can’t see myself within the books I learn lately/ Was I noticed myself on each single web page”) and the goofball ditty “Ry Cooder” (“English rockers, all their cash goes straight up their nostril/ However Ry simply smiles and tries a tough yoga pose”). But the vary Callahan has carved out inside this context is staggering.
On one hand there are riotous larks like “Protest Music,” on which Callahan recollects watching some younger troubadour’s embarrassing try at a political anthem on late-night TV. The one factor funnier than his aghast cries of “Oh my god!” is the cartoonish studying he brings to the road, “Step apart, son, you’re gonna get hoyt.” That track flows instantly into “The Mackenzies,” a mesmerizing narrative during which Callahan’s protagonist — “the kind of man who sees a neighbor exterior and stays inside and hides” — permits the older couple next-door to welcome him inside and bathe him with hospitality. He agrees to remain for dinner; they bond over a mutual appreciation for Mel Tormé and “the early motion pictures of Child and Play.” Close to the top, issues take a deeply transferring flip that additionally ramps up the haunted uncertainty on the track’s blurry edges. It’s like a Hallmark film that vaguely threatens to turn into Lynchian with out dropping its important heat.
At instances on Gold File, Callahan continues to render married life in all its intimate splendor, although there’s all the time some doubt as as to if he’s chronicling his personal expertise or inhabiting a personality. On the bucolic gallop “One other Music,” he takes the afternoon off work to put along with his spouse and indulge in the great thing about the sundown: “And the sunshine that’s leaving takes its personal candy time/ Altering colours slowly like fruit on the vine/ And tonight, Lord, tonight, a few of it’s mine.” In distinction to that deeply romantic portrait, “Breakfast” explores the little negotiations essential to make such a union final: “I drink in order that we don’t combat/ She don’t drink in order that we don’t combat.” His outdated Smog basic “Let’s Transfer To The Nation” will get an unvarnished remake with its tentative elliptical sentences stuffed in; Callahan caps off the suggestion, “Let’s begin a household/ Let’s have a child/ Or perhaps two,” with a mild wordless coo that runs instantly counter to the unique monitor’s nervous rigidity.
His philosophizing about marriage takes one other type on the opening waltz “Pigeons,” during which he portrays a limo driver providing unsolicited recommendation to his newlywed passengers. “When two atoms from the Huge Bang/ Get again along with the outdated gang,” Callahan croons, “I drop them at a flowery dancy boutique resort/ And I drive off alone, however I’m not alone.” The track’s golden-hour profundity is enhanced by refined musicianship and mirage-like manufacturing that calls again to Bob Dylan’s current Tough And Rowdy Methods — and like Dylan, Callahan undercuts his personal sentimentality with baldly hilarious imagery like pigeons gobbling up wedding ceremony rice and exploding someplace over San Antonio. When it comes to Dylan’s profession arc, although, Callahan is someplace nearer to Time Out Of Thoughts, the Grammy-winning 1997 launch that kicked off Dylan’s latter-day renaissance.
Shepherd appeared to equally mark out a brand new period for Callahan, positioning him as an elder statesman perched on his porch, starting what might be a richly rewarding journey into outdated age. He telegraphs these intentions on “Pigeons,” which begins, “Whats up, I’m Johnny Money,” and ends, “Sincerely, L. Cohen” — two fellow baritone geniuses, legends whose late-career choices appeared to amplify their mystique by emphasizing their fragile humanity. So far as I do know, Callahan shouldn’t be on dying’s door, so we’ll hopefully have to attend a long time for his equal of “Damage” or You Need It Darker. Within the meantime we are able to confidently suspect that there’s much more gold the place this got here from.
Gold File is out 9/four on Drag Metropolis. Pre-order it right here.