Bill Callahan’s latest LP, Apocalypse, is a difficult one to grasp. Such is the nature of Bill Callahan, whose music has always (even under Smog) been a bit on the fringe. Rarely do we pull from other reviews, but it must be noted that Pitchfork pointed out the contradictory nature of Callahan’s music — and it’s true. Apocalypse is delicate, but it’s rough around the edges. It’s sweet but brutal. A throwback to the old style of folk, almost Americana, but with a modern experimental folk twist. Introspective but sociological. Minimal but plush with detail. Calming but alarming.
Apocalypse is an album wrought with complexity, contemplative to its core, yet with a wispy back-country playful edge. The album is a traveler’s album, or a hermit’s; it’ll take you down those old dusty roads and it can keep you cozy and warm while confined in a small, dark space.
Accompanied by a jazzy guitar and percussion, trading lead with a flute, Callahan ponders in “Free’s”: I’m standing in a field / A field of questions / As far as the eye can see / Is this what it means to be free / Or is this what it means to belong to the free? / … To belong to being derided for things I don’t believe. The verse is one to ponder, one that questions the inherent nature of our so-called civilization, how we’ve become what we’ve become and ultimately rejecting it.
Aforementioned: Introspective yet sociologically analytical. Apocalypse discredits our current state of being, stating — without actually saying it — that things should not be like this. It is, in essence, the perfect album for our current times. For one like myself, who is going through an internal change, vowing to reject the norms of society and grasp a style of life more conducive to the old west circa the mid 1800s, one sustainable and minimal, it is an anthem.
In “One Fine Morning” he concludes Yeah, it’s all coming back to me now / My apocalypse, my apocalypse / The curtain rose and burned / In the morning sun. It isn’t so much a terrifying recount of an event that occurred, but the realization that he has struggled through a revelation, pulled through, and is enlightened because of it.
Download: “Drover” by Bill Callahan
Drag City [LP, 2011]
2. Baby’s Breath
4. Universal Applicant
5. Riding For The Feeling
7. One Fine Morning