STITCHES, DEAD OCEANS
No matter how many times I hear it, Califone’s world-weary experimental folk always seems to catch me off guard. Tim Rutili’s tired voice and simple melodies always fit so perfectly between the instruments, and Califone’s slow-building pads and easygoing demeanour never fail to elicit a smile. So while nothing on Stitches reinvents Califone’s wheel, longtime fans and new listeners should welcome the latest record with open arms.
The jazzy lazy-folk of “Magdalene” establishes the band’s groovy interplay, culminating in a sparse ambient jam-out; “Movie Music Kills a Kiss” sets the album’s melancholy desolation; string pads fill in the gaps on the otherwise-minimalistic “Moses.” Califone’s willingness to branch out gives their albums a contagious sense of discovery that passes from the band to the listener, whether the songs rely on Rutili’s songwriting chops (“Frosted Tips”) or sound collage (“Turtle Eggs/An Optimist”).
The band may never truly escape from under Wilco’s shadow, but they deserve to be recognized as one of the stronger songwriting teams in folk music.
By John Julius