Califone-Stitches

Califone's Stitches fulfills their role as the ultimate purveyors of slow, experimental indie pop songs that flirt with elements of incidental music and soundtrack collage. They seamlessly blend the elements of postrock and 70s singer/songwriter conventions, while developing a soundtrack that approximates the weirdest movie-fan dream.   

From the very first track, “Movie Music Kills a Kiss,” they navigate this landscape, creating music that pushes this aesthetic into overdrive. Tim Rutili sings “Karen Black forgets the words / Like Memphis when the rapture breaks,” painting a seamless merging of story and song in which their acoustic harmonics and dissonant noises create a perfect backdrop for the gentle lyrics. The title track begins with a smattering of electronics before new wave vocals creep in. The sweet intermingling of  voice and the backup vocals seems disembodied from the music until he sings “the Chinese opera shows the stitches.” Califone's lyrics resemble a mashup of later era Clem Snide or, perhaps the Eels, if they relied less on telling a straightforward narrative and more on developing a feeling through words. The lyrics are homespun and even with the incidental electronics, so is the music, riding a slow and soulful vibe.

Many of the tracks, such as “Frosted Tips” cinematic lyrics capture a late night feeling: “Here we are alone / watching the new world die;” its surprisingly upbeat music with keyboard flourishes does not seem to match the lyrics, yet it works as an anthem of togetherness – several people are connecting beneath the crashing waves of the music and the dying world as electronic beeps straight out of a Casiotone for the Painfully Alone album attempt to interfere."Magdalene" is equally cinematic, returning to an acoustic and keyboard-driven framework with the most beautiful vocal of the album. Rutili delivers soulful poetry while the music swells then simmers. He sings, “Magdalene takes you by the throat and smiles / Jesus confuses me.” "Bells Break Arms" rides in on electronic beeps and a bed of white noise before keyboards come in accompanied by Rutili's treated vocals.

The album is a collection of impressions, or impressionistic tales, if you will that fit together seemlessly as a whole. The band layers many on a bed of electronic noises and Ben Massarella's faint percussion that recalls incidental film music, but even the slightest has enough emotion and detail to captivate and entertain.

(I originally started this review in 2013 when Stitches came out. I found it when I was deleting files from my hard drive. I thought I would share my updates.)

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