Bill Callahan Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle

Bill Callahan is actively searching for his animal nature with ever-decreasing irony these last few albums. This restlessness and a current of loss are somewhat hidden behind a poker face of strings and piano bar keys that superficially signal ease. But the contrary signs, such as lines like "I used to be darker, then I got lighter, then I got dark again," are just below the surface. Like friend and sometime Sundowners band-mate Will Oldham, Callahan has a knack for doubling the energy of words to extend their semiotics, only with a deceptively simple obverse. "Too Many Birds" might just be about an overstuffed tree, if you substitute "bands" for "birds." Later (in "All Thoughts Are Prey to Some Beast"), the birds are the network of thoughts in the denuded "brain tree" that come under the attention of a lone eagle who suffers a sudden existential crisis. Anthropomorphism and mythopoeism are generally not the stuff of freewheeling pop music, but Callahan somehow manages to sneak them past us, perhaps disguised as a robin or palomino. (Drag City)