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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
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+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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A River Ain't Too Much To Love
Drag City

There's some kind of desert here, some grand landscape hinged between dusk and dawn that Bill Callahan evokes. It comes into being with his deep, deep, dry voice, the way he almost talks a song more than he sings it; in lyrics of remembered childhood and sensual aloneness ("lighting matches and dropping them into a wet glass"), and romance that arrives in what can only be described as moments of thirsty restraint; in a line or two of humor, for Callahan is not without a smile; in spare music cusping between acoustic and electric residues that reference a more cowboy-blue Lou Reed, with a touch of Latino, cross-the-border feelings (not for nothing was this record made in Willie Nelson's Texas studio); in the train-shuffling, country-waltz contributions of Australia's Jim White, best known for his fire-and-ebb drumming with the Dirty Three and very arguably the finest drummer at work today when it comes to music with a lyric heart.

Let's say it now: Smog, the name by which Bill Callahan passes in the world, is fundamentally poetic, confessional, ecstatic with words. His 12th record holds no surprises for longtime fans, and yet here it is, his best, his greatest. Natively religious and without masks despite the weary edges, the gently ironic tongue. There's a joy here on A River Ain't Too Much to Love that is both unforgettable and sweeping. Listening to it I thought of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, for feel-alike rather than sound-alike reasons. Which is to say it made me feel young and old and sad and free. Pure soul cinema, it made me see the answer to the question Callahan raises, "Is there anything as still as sleeping horses?" It made me want to ask my wife, "Will you bury me in wood when the river runs dry, will you bury me in stone," and tell her "I never really realized death was what it meant to make it on my own." In the high dark, desert atmospheres of it, I felt like I was Sam Shepard and Johnny Cash combined. Which is to say I felt alone and alive and pretty damned good.

by Mark Mordue

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