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    Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    When all the shadows settle: Califone MP3s

    I need to invent some kind of impenetrable bubble to listen to Califone in. Even with the earmuff-like headphones that have become part of my daily outfit, the city won’t keep out. I’m walking down the street, trying to be overwhelmed by all the placid wonders of their “Orchids” cover. Meanwhile, tires are screeching, people are squawking into cellphones, and the wind is muttering like a deranged dog. Not exactly ideal circumstances to take in something so delicate and subtle.

    Because Roots and Crowns belongs to a class of great albums that require your total attention and devotion. As with many other stars of 2006 (The Letting Go, Damaged, Devastations’ Coal, parts of Post-War), you may well enjoy the album after a few cursory listens. But to truly absorb it, to feel it as an evangelist feels his booming message, you need a patient ear and no distractions. You need to let every quiet note sink in and every elusive melody find you. You need to allow Tim Rutili's voice to mellowly carry you away. Then when you've reached the end of the thirteen-song cycle, start over and see what new ore you can dig up.

    Lately, Roots and Crowns is what I'll listen to at night when I'm alone in my apartment. My phone is off and the lights are on a dimmer setting. It's not quite the bubble I'd envisioned, but it's a decent substitute. Tonight, I just noticed how essential that background percussion is to "Sunday Noises." How it holds up the track like a backbone, how it keeps on hammering away among the other elements. All this time, it'd been getting lost in the urban clatter. It'd just been waiting for me to track it down.

    * MP3: "Sunday Noises" - Califone from Roots and Crowns
    * MP3: "The Orchids" - Califone from Roots and Crowns [Buy it]
    * Band Website: Pastry Sharp

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