Califone Stitches

Califone Stitches
6
What they weren't — a regular roots-rock band — has always been a big part of Califone's appeal. Now, after gradually stripping back their trademark experimentation on All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, the Chicago, IL-based foursome have fully embraced normalcy with Stitches. As natural a move as the transition was, it's still jarring to hear a band once defined by their out-of-the-box approach to string-centric folk songwriting sound so comfortable playing by the rules they once flouted. Mostly, their less imaginative, new approach can be felt in the arrangements; Tim Rutili's gift for humbly sophisticated chords and melodies is intact, though fewer tracks stand out than prior releases. Still, the wistful beauty of "Movie Music Kills the Kiss," the scrappy rock stomp of "Frosted Tips" and album highlight "Bells Break Arm," with its insistent tabla beat, sparse, reverberant piano, airily gurgling guitar feedback and Rutili's plaintive, weathered vocals, are evidence that even when playing it safe, Califone are more intuitively adventurous and melodically confident than the majority of their peers. (Dead Oceans)