Bill Callahan, ‘Dream River’


Aidin Vaziri | When it comes time to sort through the mess of albums released this year, it’s unlikely anyone will find a lyric more efficiently heartbreaking than the one Bill Callahan deploys on “The Sing,” the opening track to his latest solo album: “The only words I said today are ‘beer’ and ‘thank you.’ ” The Smog singer-songwriter sounds characteristically defeated on “Dream River,” even as he dishes out some of the drollest lines of his 20-year career. The music has grown more exotic, too – where once it was a lone voice with barely plucked guitar chords, here there’s a full spectrum of sounds swirling around that deep baritone. Over flutes and conga drums on “Spring,” Callahan deadpans, “Mountains don’t need my accolades.” “Ride My Arrow,” meanwhile, builds on a quiet cacophony as the singer pleads, “I don’t ever want to die.” Brilliantly, he never veers too far into misery or mirth, delicately maintaining his reputation as a gentle eccentric.