Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle - Review
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critics' view

In 2007, Woke On A Whaleheart not only signified the emergence of Bill Callahan from the hazy alias Smog, it was a sea change in spirit. The collection was stylistically scattershot—the first to feature music completely arranged by a second party, Neil Hagerty—and lyrically upbeat, a quality which theretofore wouldn’t have come within spittin’ distance of Callahan’s wry wit. In that sense, Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle is a return to form, finding its maker focused and deadly over a lush set of string-laden alt-country pop. His target is love, mostly—a breakup—as evidenced by the single “Eid Ma Clack Shaw,” where over French horn, piano, and strings, Callahan’s baritone raises from a quaver to the flat declaration, “All these fine memories are fuckin’ me down.”

Rather than taking cheap shots at the one who scorned him, Callahan spins metaphoric yarns about horses, lions, birds, and winds that slowly rot romance from its core. This happens all the way up to the second-to-last song—the disorienting instrumental “Invocation Of Ratiocination,” Eagle’s lone anomaly—and with the album-closer “Faith/Void,” Callahan whittles down another abstract comfort, repeating ad infinitum over nearly 10 minutes of gorgeous country road, “It’s time to put God away.” To paraphrase the first song, “Jim Cain,” Callahan used to be darker, then he got lighter, and now he’s dark again. What makes Eagle so strong is that the music stayed light, and those bucolic splashes of washed-out color contrast so well against Bill Callahan’s blues.

Chris Martins
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