Califone Roots & Crowns

Califone’s latest record is a fascinating collection of songs that are sonically brave and bold, as the band continue their penchant for adventurous song-forms and musical exploration. With free-form Beat poetry and the experimentation of Brian Eno figuring as influences, Tim Rutili guides Califone through uncharted territory. While "Pink and Sour” may beg an easy world music tag, it has all of the hallmarks of a folk song remixed into an intriguing African-Middle-Eastern-American folk song stew. On "The Eye You Lost in the Crusades,” a grainy field recording gives way to a commanding acoustic guitar and scary percussive noises and Tim Rutili’s strange backward-sounding vocals. "A Chinese Actor” alternates between being an indecipherable noise track to a melodious pop song, while the band’s cover of "The Orchids” by Psychic TV resembles Neutral Milk Hotel. "Black Metal Valentine” is a six-minute musical journey, which sounds like Being There-era Wilco re-imagined by Negativland. In many respects, Califone are out on their own here, generating new sounds out of old tools. There is freedom in the band’s approach on Roots & Crowns, like any idea is plausible and every musical direction is worth taking. It’s a liberating listening experience for certain. (Thrill Jockey)