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Last Active 11-13-19 8:30 pm
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09.20.19 Late 2019 Best of Decade Gatecrashers?06.23.19 Doof's Top 100 Bill Callahan Songs
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Doof's Top 100 Bill Callahan Songs

Is he this generation's Lou Reed? Is he the heir apparent to Leonard Cohen? Is he the spiritual reincarnation of Nick Drake? Is he top of the current folk and indie folk crop? Ahead of the likes of Mark Kozelek, Will Oldham and Suffy Steves? After listening to the man's entire discog (near enough) I have to say 'arguably, yes...yes he is!' to all of the above.
100Bill Callahan
Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle


'Faith/Void' [4]

'It's time to put God away'

First artist Doof top 100 songs to be rated all 4 stars plus? I think maybe Bowie too, but that's it.
99smog
Accumulation: None


'Real Live Dress' [4]
98Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest


'Confederate Jasmine' [4]
97smog
Knock Knock


'No Dancing' [4]
96smog
Rain on Lens


'Keep Some Steady Friends Around' [4]
95smog
The Doctor Came at Dawn


'Everything You Touch Becomes a Crutch' [4]
94Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest


'Lonesome Valley' [4]
93smog
Knock Knock


'Left Only with Love' [4]
92smog
Wild Love


'Wild Love' [4]
91Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest


'Young Icarus' [4]
90smog
Dongs of Sevotion


'Nineteen' [4]
89smog
Rain on Lens


'Dirty Pants' [4]
88Bill Callahan
Apocalypse


'Baby's Breath' [4]
87smog
Julius Caesar


'Chosen One' [4]
86Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest


'Morning is My Godmother' [4]
85smog
A River Ain't Too Much To Love


'I Feel Like the Mother of the World' [4]
84smog
Supper


'A Guiding Light' [4]
83Bill Callahan
Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle


'All Thoughts are Prey to Some Beast' [4]
82Bill Callahan
Dream River


'Spring' [4]
81Bill Callahan
Apocalypse


'America!' [4]
80smog
Knock Knock


'Let's Move to the Country' [4]
79Smog
Supper


'Truth Serum' [4]
78Bill Callahan
Dream River


'Seagull' [4]
77smog
Dongs of Sevotion


'Permanent Smile' [4]
76smog
The Doctor Came at Dawn


'Four Hearts in a Can' [4]
75Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest


'Black Dog on the Beach' [4]
74smog
Supper


'Driving' [4]
73smog
Dongs of Sevotion


'Distance' [4]
72smog
Red Apple Falls


'The Morning Paper' [4]
71Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest


'Circles' [4]
70smog
A River Ain't Too Much To Love


'Running the Loping' [4]
69Bill Callahan
Dream River


'Ride My Arrow' [4]
68smog
Supper


'Feather by Feather' [4]
67Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest


'Camels' [4]
66smog
Red Apple Falls


'Blood Red Bird' [4]
65Smog
Dongs of Sevotion


'Bloodflow' [4]
64Smog
Rain on Lens


'Song' [4]
63Smog
Julius Caesar


'On the Tracks' [4]
62Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest


'Watch Me Get Married' [4]
61smog
A River Ain't Too Much To Love


'Let Me See the Colts' [4]
60Smog
The Doctor Came at Dawn


'Somewhere in the Night' [4]
59smog
Supper


'Vessel in Vain' [4]
58smog
A River Ain't Too Much To Love


'Say Valley Maker' [4]
57Smog
Dongs of Sevotion


'Justice Aversion' [4]
56Bill Callahan
Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle


'Rococo Zephyr' [4]
55Bill Callahan
Dream River


'Summer Painter' [4]
54smog
A River Ain't Too Much To Love


'Palimpsest' [4]
53Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest


'The Beast' [4]
52Bill Callahan
Woke On A Whaleheart


'Sycamore' [4]
51smog
The Doctor Came at Dawn


'You Moved In' [4]
50smog
Red Apple Falls


'Red Apple Falls' [4.5]

A slow burn title track - could be called uneventful if it wasn't for the drama of those lyrics and Bill's vocal delivery.
49smog
Dongs of Sevotion


'Easily Led' [4.5]

'I am not easily led...despite the head' Keep telling yourself that buddy.
48smog
Knock Knock


'Hit the Ground Running' [4.5]

A 'Knock Knock' song with the children's choir yeashhhhhhh. Sort of hopeful in tone...actually sort of depressing as all hell in reality.
47smog
Wild Love


'It's Rough' [4.5]

Confessional and dark, reminds me of Mark Eitzel/American Music Club an awful lot - I could have taken a whole album in this style...because 'Wild Love' isn't quite that.
46Smog
A River Ain't Too Much To Love


'The Well' [4.5]

Another country hoedown style arrangement of sorts, one to play at the barn dance.
45smog
Knock Knock


'I Could Drive Forever' [4.5]

Another of the tetralogy (yeah) of 'aftermath songs' on the 'Knock Knock' song cycle - we started the album with our narrator driving to the country...guess what? Now he's driving the other direction and carrying a heap of newly acquired and unwanted baggage. Sad as shit.
44Smog
Rain on Lens


'Life Life as If Someone's Always Watching You' [4.5]

A slowly evolving and atmospheric late set stunner that helps to shore up the second side of 'Rain on Lens'.
43smog
The Doctor Came at Dawn


'Spread Your Bloody Wings' [4.5]

This really sounds like a hidden song that didn't make it onto Low's debut album - only BC adds some harp, and who knew but the harp really seals the deal. Darkly beautiful like a hall filled with giant spider webs.
42Bill Callahan
Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle


'My Friend' [4.5]

An appealing alt country framework plays host to some of Bill's most devilish and sinister lyrics. Not sure I want to be this man's friend no more.
41Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest


'Released' [4.5]

Starts up like another Nick Drake homage but then turns into the most decontructed and ominous moment on the album.
40Smog
Rain on Lens


Lazy Rain [4.5]

First song taken from 'Rain on Lens' and that might look damning but it really shouldn't - it's a great enough album. People refer to it as his most 'Velvet Undergrounds' album and you can definitely hear it, this particualr tune gives some good rumble tones. Yo La Tengo would adopt this one in a heartbeat.
39Bill Callahan
Dream River


'Winter Road' [4.5]

An epic closing track that really helps anchor 'Dream River' just when it seemed to be rambling a bit too uneventfully to its conclusion.
38Smog
Dongs of Sevotion


'Strayed' [4.5]

As close to Motown as Callahan has ever trod - this has that same leisurely soul vibe that Mark Lanegan moved towards toward the late '90s. Contains the classic and very un-Motown lyric 'Well I never thought I'd be one of those men with pin-ups on their wall for all to see...I thought that was just mechanics'. He delivers it with apolmb, hur hur.
37Smog
A River Ain't Too Much To Love


'Drinking at the Dam' [4.5]

The instrumental coupled with the backing vocals is enough to make this one heavenly - Bill's warm nostalgic reflections the cherry on top. Sunset pretty and sublime.
36Smog
Knock Knock


'Held' [4.5]

Another O'Rourke assisted rip snorter (kinda) taken from the near-perfect 'Knock Knock' - who hasn't wanted to let themselves be held 'like a big old baby' and sing 'whooo' over clompy rhythmic backing and squalling guitar. Oh, he compares it to laying back in the tall grass and letting the ants cover him - always that darkness Billy, always, even with cuddles.
35Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest


'Angela' [4.5]

Very VERY Cohen - this is one of the more straightforward songs on the album which he wisely placed towards the front of the tracklist. The woozy quality to the end of the song is nicely judged. The sort of solid stuff Bill could record to order you'd think - this is why I believe he is very good indeed.
34Smog
A River Ain't Too Much To Love


'In the Pines' [4.5]

A cover version of a 'near standard' I guess, this is such a perfect reading of the song complete with mournful whistling - one of his most evocative recordings.
33Smog
The Doctor Came at Dawn


'Hangman Blues' [4.5]

One of Bill's most experimental offerings, and also one of the more disturbing - his voice dissolving into wordless gasps and moans as he contemplates his fate. Time is the enemy in this one, every silent pause a source of dread.
32Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest


'Writing' [4.5]

'It feels good to be writing again...clear water flows from my pen' - glad to hear the man sing it, considering he clearly had his pangs of doubt described here and elsewhere throughout the new album. No one's invincible.
31smog
Red Apple Falls


'Red Apples' [4.5]

The 'haunted funeral procession' of Smog songs - twisted fairytale/dream state imagery conjures up a certain uneasiness. Not one for the party mix.
30Smog
Dongs of Sevotion


'Cold Discovery' [4.5]

Almost a more fleshed out version of 'Sweet Treat'...so perhaps I'm being too harsh ranking this one so low. Some disturbing thinking set to an insistent slow burn of a builder - 'Well, I can hold a woman down on a hardwood floor...that was my cold discovery'.
29Bill Callahan
Dream River


'Javelin Unlanding' [4.5]

One of the best Callahan songs in terms of the choice of instrumention - well deployed flute, electric guitar and various other underlying effects. They're all utilised to perfection - delivering the hookiest song on the otherwise 'almost too ultra restrained for its own good' Dream River.
28Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest


'747' [4.5]

Another key song plucked from the new double set - this is one of the compositional highlights, with a light and airy mood, like Bill's spirits are being lifted due to the altitude he's flying at.
27Smog
Red Apple Falls


'I Was a Stranger' [4.5]

The old school country ballad - this one positively aches, Bill's vocal drawl matched to all that pedal steel is...well it's frankly a quite wonderful thing {spits in spitoon}. Actually, tbh the song is just as arch as Pavement's 'Range Life' or anything by the Silver Jews.
26Bill Callahan
Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle


'Eid Ma Clack Shaw' [4.5]

If the phrase 'eid ma clack shaw' means nothing to you then you haven't listened to this song and therefore deserve death or worse. Addictive is the word for this one.
25Smog
The Doctor Came at Dawn


'Lize' [4.5]

Doc finds BC at his most slowcore and grim minded - this is the Callahan song to play to people who love either Sparklehorse or Low. I love Sparklehorse and Low and I love this one.
24Smog
Knock Knock


'Cold Blooded Old Times' [4.5]

Jim O'Rourke's influence comes to the fore, the electric guitar gets whipped out and in true Stars in Their Eyes fashion..."Bill, tonight you are Lou Reed!". One of his most well known songs and rightly so - the lyrics are pitch dark but the music is close to catchy.
23Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest


'The Ballad of the Hulk' [5]

One of the new album's most 'Benji'fied moments where Bill takes on the role of narrator - the whole album plays like becoming a fly on the wall inside the man's head over a few days? A year? A jumble of recollections, musings...this wouldn't work for all folk songwriters but 'Being John Malkovich'ing inside Callahan's head is worthwhile going on the evidence provided here.
22Bill Callahan
Dream River


'Small Plane' [5]

Gentle, gentle, gentle. Some of the man's most potent imagery and storytelling - you can really see the view from the cockpit. 'I really am a lucky man', 'we really have a home' - his heart is wide open on this one and you can't help but feel it.
21Bill Callahan
Apocalypse


'Drover' [5]

Yet another opening track; here our hero goes as close as he's ever gone to the full 'Country and western' - it has a bit of the silver screen matinee, a bit of the ol' country hoedown to it. A great selection of instrumentation on this one, particularly the violins and distorted electric guitar that weave in and out periodically. The 'wild country' section is one of his most powerful refrains.
20Smog
Wild Love


'Bathysphere' [5]

A child's memory of bathtime transformed into a formative dream of escape to a fantasy world - an underwater kingdom. An intriguing selection of scene setter on the release where Bill seemed to start getting a handle of his song writing.
19Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest


'Tugboats and Tumbleweeds' [5]

Callahan doesn't usually directly call out to his 'flock' and give advice but hey, as now he's a parent here he is doing it. In particular he tells the younglings to have (in turn) a high, drunk and sober time...but hilariously only when your brain is 'at least 23' (when you've got a grip of your actual way of thinking/personality I guess?). The fact he's imparting this wisdom while doing the Rolf Harris style 'wordless rhythmic singing' in the background is beyond perfection.
18Bill Callahan
Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle


'Too Many Birds' [5]

Bill's masterclass in repetition - in fact I struggle to think of a folk performer who's quite so effective at utilising such economic lyrical content. The closing segment where he adds just one extra syllable/word/pair of words with each repetition of the sentence is ingenious in its simplicity. An understated classic.
17Smog
Red Apple Falls


'Ex-Con' [5]

An upbeat Smog song - it's taken us just the 17 entries to get here. Sometimes Callahan lyrics read like a series of excellent one-liners and that's sort of what's up here. Here our 'ex-con' (possibly actually an actual ex-con, probably not) is visiting your house where he still feels like he's 'casing the joint'. Similar to 'Teenage Spaceship' this is once again an ode to alienation where you only feel like 'a part of the community' when you're alone in your room.
16Smog
Knock Knock


'Sweet Treat' [5]

I've read philistines refer to this as a weak link on 'Knock Knock' when this is one of the greatest (and my lord saddest) 'aftermath songs' of all time. The most gentle reflection on the drives that lead people towards the path of adultery - 'take your sweet treat in the evening...please, to know this...' An atmospheric marvel of a tune that also packs an emotional gut punch.
15Smog
A River Ain't Too Much To Love


'Rock Bottom Riser' [5]

Another skeletal tune a great deal similar to 'Used to Be' - though it reveals itself to be a piano led number a third of the way through. 'A River...' is Bill at his most subtle, classic and seamless - and this song is the epitome of that approach.
14Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest


'Son of the Sea' [5]

Callahan adopts many personas across the course of this tight song cycle double album - frequently he's the shepherd worried about his flock, sometimes he's a tug boat hauling other vessels, and then in a few spots he's a fisherman where he's conversing with God through the water once again. With parenthood comes other worries, providing but also taking your place in the sequence of family. 'Giving birth nearly killed me! Some say I died, and all that survived was my lullabies...the panic room is now a nursery'.
13Smog
Wild Love


'Prince Alone in the Studio' [5]

Yes, this is a song about Prince alone in the studio - a shout out from a 'one man artist' to another, although BC probably wouldn't slap 'raspberry headphones' onto his own head. 'It's 4am when he finally gets that guitar track right' - this is the sound of obsession, and this song stated that music is officially better than sex...and that even Prince would have agreed with that!
12Bill Callahan
Dream River


'The Sing' [5]

Another stellar and perfectly judged opener, this man has learnt how to kick off an album. You really can picture the setting to this one - basically the bar where Alvin Straight has his final ever beer in the Straight Story. 'well all I said today is beer and thank you. Beer. And thank you' - some days that does seem like a heaven of sorts.
11Smog
Knock Knock


'Teenage Spaceship' [5]

One of the trademark Smog songs - hinting at the loner persona and troubled kid history so much of Bill's early material seems to reference. It could be the Smog anthem...but if it were it would be the quietest anthem song ever recorded.
10Bill Callahan
Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle


'Jim Cain' [5]

A true 'opening the fist page of the illustrated story book' opener - this is his most blissful composition, even Lambchop would be envious of this one such is its smoothness and subtlety. Also contains the classic perhaps self referential line 'I used to be darker...then I got lighter...then I got dark again' which hints at his career arc.
9Smog
Supper


'Our Anniversary' [5]

The obvious highlight of the up and down 'Supper' - somewhat similar to 'Dress Sexy' and 'Riding for the Feeling', once again this is a relaxed and expansive 'longer song'. Similar to 'What Comes After Certainty' here Bill sings of someone in a moment of supposed total happiness dreaming of what is to come - in this case deciding whether to bolt from this relationship, one where this man who knows how to hotwire a car could yet run from this woman who feels the need to hide his keys. The tone Callahan applies to his vocals here is a bit different, very smooth and unwavering.
8Bill Callahan
Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle


'The Wind and the Dove' [5]

A common argument is that BC is, like Cohen, more a lyrics-centric or at least vocals-centric artist - well, more multi part and lush tunes like 'Wind and the Dove' make a strong counter argument. 'Sometimes...' is perhaps the man's most resplendently pastoral and prettily melodic release - and never more so than on this stunner.
7Smog
The Doctor Came at Dawn


'All Your Women Things' [5]

You don't think Bill could have taken vocal or song writing duties on an early Red House Painters album? Think again. This is one Kozelek-esque disturbed romantic creepy crawl. This is one step away from putting the lotion in the basket.
6Bill Callahan
Apocalypse


'Riding for the Feeling' [5]

A song so perfect it could be near enough any other singer song writer's greatest song - it lands here at number 6. 'Riding' just sounds so at ease, that fatherly (Grandfatherly, maybe?) voice in supreme conversational mode. The way this tune whips up the emotion and intensity, invest enough in this one and you'll weep - with bittersweet sadness or a qualified joy I just don't know.
5Smog
Accumulation: None


'I Break Horses' [5]

Here's a younger and less autobiographical Bill wearing another character - a man who 'breaks horses', or young fillies of a different sort if you catch his drift. If he doesn't quite make the pursuit sound noble, he at least makes it sound quite necessary and the 'skill' a sort of God given divine gift. 'they seem to run to me, asking to be broken - it doesn't take me long, just a few well placed words'. Indeed.
4Bill Callahan
Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest


'What Comes After Certainty' [5]

The man had hidden away for long enough, he returns - what's he been up to and what has he learnt? Well Bill got married, honeymooned, reached bliss...but this is Callahan, he's seen 'God's face on the water' but that's not enough, he wants to know what comes after the 'little old house and new model car'. If you don't think this man could ever write anything as pure as Nick Drake at his absolute best - this song (among others) will try and change your mind.
3Smog
Dongs of Sevotion


'Dress Sexy at My Funeral' [5]

Oh so very droll, this is where the Reed and Cohen comparisons really come into their own (maybe Nick Cave too?) - the song title gives the game away as to what the set up is here...and sure some of it's played for dark laughs, though the song becomes increasingly profound and pretty as it progresses, the nostalgic reveries taking hold. The wordless singing at the end is perfect.
2Smog
Red Apple Falls


'To Be of Use' [5]

Callahan shows he's a master of tempo, sparsity and silence with this plaintive beaut that adopts the role of a haunted vaccum that lies at the centre of one of his most consistent sets of songs. I think most can relate to this idea, of reducing down to a level of 'useful instrument' and in terms of a relationship 'simple pleasure provider' - like a busy bee in the hive, maybe your only job is making the queen 'cum', satisfaction in a necessary job done.
1Smog
Knock Knock


'River Guard' [5]

The standout song from the standout Smog album - and despite this tune standing a little outside the main song cycle themes of 'Knock Knock' it could be argued that the mood conjured here defines the album. The line 'we are constantly on trial...it's a way to be free' is delivered with such gravitas and purity it make the ol' hairs prick up every time. Are we all prisoners standing trial? Bill would say yes it sure feels like that.
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