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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Califone
Quicksand/Cradlesnakes
Thrill Jockey Records

Rating: NR/10 ?


October 1, 2004
Using a dream as an artistic device has notoriously mixed results. Done well and you get a haunting bit of beauty and strangeness, like Coleridge's "Xanadu". Done poorly and you get an incoherent and grating story you wish the teller had rather kept to themselves, like, say, the last season of Roseanne. Calfione front man Tim Rutili uses a recurring dream of a half-man, half-bird creature as inspiration for Heron King Blues, the band's latest full-length release; consider this one of the good instances.

Califone's music has always sounded something like a dream, vaguely familiar yet not altogether real. The combination of traditional American music - like the plucked acoustic guitars on "Wingbone", the opening track on Heron King Blues - and deceptive electronic work creates a sound that is somehow both anachronistic and futuristic all at once, and to great effect. It has the ability to evoke the image of falling asleep outdoors in the Appalachian Mountains and catching some song floating along the wind and seeping into your subconscious.

Tim Rutili's lyrics add further layers to the dream-like state. The words come at you with a stream of consciousness that occasionally bursts through with lucidity, defying definition: "slept against an angels neck sawtooth sung finely get a rain and/ finely get born old names are peeling away." (from "Sawtooth Sung a Cheater's Song"). Sung in his soft, raspy voice, the words both haunt and sooth.

Heron King Blues was recorded in two weeks, from June 2-16, 2003, and the songs were largely improvised. The members of Califone are all practiced improvisers, and are able to successfully capture the magic and mystery of playing in a group without more than an outline of what they wanted to accomplish, which only further augments the dream-like qualities of the album. Like all good improv, it is filled with surprises and unexpected sounds and directions.

Coming so soon on the heels of Quicksand/Cradlesnakes, their last full-length which was one of the best albums of 2003, you might expect that these songs would be just more of the same. While some songs would fit in well on previous Califone releases, others are a real change of pace, like the swamp-funk beat on "2 Sisters Drunk on Each Other." Even the ones that sound similar don't exactly sound the same, owing to the improvised music and lyrics that are anything but routine and ordinary.

The band ends up pulling off an amazing feat - recording a fresh-sounding record that further builds upon their already outstanding body of work. Released so early this year, you might forget about Heron King Blues when compiling best of 2004 lists. You shouldn't dream of it.

Reviewed by Dan Filowitz
Dan Filowitz is Toronto-born, New-Jersey-raised, Indiana-University-educated, and Chicago-residing. In addition to his Lost At Sea contributions, Dan is a senior staff writer for political humor site TalkStation.com and the president of ChicagoImprovAnarchy (The CIA) a Chicago-based improv theatre company. We are not mentioning the 9-5 corporate job. Apparently, Dan does not sleep much. Dan Filowitz is the perfect dinner party guest - fun, witty, intelligent, with wide-ranging interests, ecclectic tastes and a winning smile. Just make sure you have coffee available.

See other reviews by Dan Filowitz

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