Califone Roots & Crowns

Having the word "roots” in the title is decidedly apt, as Califone seem to have left the haze of, at least, Heron King Blues, behind and gone back to simpler things. But, these are deceptively simpler songs, as they still showcase Califone’s trademark inventiveness of sounds, making this both a relaxing and challenging triumph. Thanks to the "blogosphere,” album highlight "The Orchids” has received proper exposure, but there are also songs here that are as stylistically strong. The elegiac "Burned by the Christians” is just as solid in both its emotional weight and less-is-more delivery. Featuring perfect harmonies and a yearning violin, it is lovely enough to impress fans and those who have never set foot in Califone country before. Not everything, though, is slow and stark, as Califone stomp the hell out of "A Chinese Actor,” all the while adding bursts of feedback and other noise to keep the listener from getting too complacent. Really, Roots & Crowns is an excellent album due to the fact that Califone reign in their stylistic excesses to a great degree, leaving their heartfelt songwriting to shine through. Oppositely, it is not a perfect album since they still leave enough odd sonic accoutrements to keep some rewards maddeningly at bay. (Thrill Jockey)