Cadallaca Before the Dream Faded

Still the reigning king of lo-fi indie pop, Calvin Johnson has thankfully hired a handful of K Records protégés to polish his crown. The songs on his second solo release are encased in the creative polish/production work of Mirah, Johnny Jewel (of Glass Candy) and Phil Elverum, among others, and the result is a varied collection of song gems. From the soft-sweet-and-tender nudge-off, "When Hearts Turn Blue” to the sombre spaghetti western-styled centrepiece, "I’m Down,” Calvin’s decision to make the album a full collaboration was clearly a sharp one. There’s something for every demographic in Calvin’s shuffling fan base: newer fans get a fresher take, and older fans see their hero updated but unchanged. Younger contributors take Calvin’s rambunctious inner child out for a walk in the park — "The Leaves of Tea” sits cross-legged among Beat Happening’s cutest tracks. At the same time, Calvin’s more "mature,” lascivious side gets a shot of Spanish fly, as evidenced by the sexy noire production on "I Am Without” and the garage-y prurience of "Rabbit Blood.” Scoffers could contest that a man in his middle age shouldn’t be singing about doing it to a score that could have been penned by a high school talent show act, but at least it works. Calvin’s surprisingly deft wordplay is evidence enough that the man is a natural, and Before the Dream Faded is a nice addition to his body of work. (K)