Track This: Califone's "We Are a Payphone."

"We Are A Payphone" might just be the best track you haven't heard this year or any. A resonating acoustic guitar intro gives way to Tim Rutili's vocals with each string resonating pain. His vocals serve as a call and response to the guitar and various electronic effects. Rutili pleads "is it too late to turn this around?" The cryptic lyrics include references to "scratches on the record" and assorted other seeming non sequitur lyrical turns.

The chorus ramps up as Rutili sings "we are a payphone waiting," complete with double tracked backup vocals. Horns intercede and provide yet another musical counterpoint to the acoustic guitars. An electric guitar section blisters and fuzzes over barely distinguishable vocals before the ambiance seems to take over for a few bars. Is that a tell-tale maraca or tambourine contributing to the overall effect?

Califone's songs are oddly mesmerizing. The lyrics are often nonsensical, but the way they interact with the music allows fragments to seep into the brain. The counter play of horns and electronics make "We Are a Payphone" continually resonate long after its 4 minute running time. The horn section is especially timeless. Not surprisingly, time continues to stand still as Califone's ambient soundtrack sections extend in between guitar parts. The texture and density allows for new discoveries on each listen.

While "We Are A Payphone is not going to be played on boom boxes or mp3 players throughout the world for its poppy bombast or danceable tune, it should be played again and again for the very secrets that its dense structure contains. The official video, dramatizes an exploration of the songs musical themes, showing a woman digging through a suitcase, pulling out different items, as the song builds the scene.

Califone has crafted another consciousness shifter. It wouldn't be surprising if these songs showed up on television commercials, sucking in customers to spend money on iPads or cellphones. Hopefully, they won't. Instead, they should play between scenes in queasy independent films, slipping into the subconscious of an audience that needs some enlightenment.

Track This is a recurring feature of Snobbin' that turns the music appreciation dial up and rips it off of your stereo. It attempts to introduce a new track, allow readers to rediscover an underappreciated track, or just serve as a forum to flat out discuss a track that falls into the ear candy category and should be listened to unabashedly for years to come.


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