Rereading the title of the article it occurs to me that I should probably mention that this is a review of the 2011 album Apocalypse, by Bill Callahan. This is the same brilliant Bill Callahan who wrote the song Eid Ma Clack Shaw — two years after I wrote the article it still gets comments every so often, which is remarkable to me as it is only about the one song! It occurred to me recently why the article continues to get as many views as it does and that is that people searching for the meaning of the song find my article on top of the Google search query — meaning of Eid Ma Clack Shaw.
Ever since I wrote the article about Eid Ma Clack Shaw, I have been thinking from time to time about the style of singing that Bill Callahan employs and publisher David Boles’ notes on it that he left as a comment in that article.
I’m also not sure if Callahan should be performing his own songs. Speaking a melody has never been my favorite notion of singing. SMILE!
As I was preparing to write this article, I found a video on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series that seemed to answer the question of why he seems to sing in this unusual way. He started singing and I was enjoying the song and then I noticed something that really seemed unusual to me — only about a third of his mouth was open when he was singing — the rest of his mouth was tightly shut. It was a wonder any sound was getting out. I have a feeling this contributes to the style of singing.
This leads me to the album itself, Apocalypse. The first thing that I noticed about the album was that it seemed to be very short — only seven songs. One of my coworkers at one point told me that it used to be that in order to be able to qualify as a full length album, a minimum of ten songs were needed. It seems as though those rules no longer are as respected as they once were. I then noticed that while there were only seven songs, the average song length was nearly six minutes with the exception of one song that was three and one that was nearly nine.
Each song is therefore in a way like an extended story. I am fascinated by the description of the album on the record label’s site:
A mirror held up to the self and then turned around to the world. This record makes us wonder what has really happened in the last 100 years. And what will happen in the next 10. The soul of your country called and left you a message. Seven messages.
If I were to address one song that really captured the soul of the album, I think the song would have to be Riding for the Feeling. The record label apparently agreed, as they made a music video for it:
The album is a beautiful collection of songs which refer to a personal apocalypse as well as the kind that leave countries in ruin and leave the need for items such as the DC450, which is not only a system for making your car into a hydrogen hybrid based vehicle but the catalog number of album — Drag City 450.
Curiously, this album is not available on Spotify. However, you can find it in digital and analog formats both online and offline.
Definitely an interesting artist, Gordon!
Indeed he is, David. Too bad about the no Spotify thing, though!
Just checked Spotify again. The new album is not there, but his old work is there — so it may only be a matter of time. I do like the video you embedded. Music more “musical” than the original effort I heard.
Hurrah! It definitely is more musical, David!