“DD Review: Califone – Stitches.”

My favorite album of this year comes from what has already been my favorite band for more than five years. This is obviously a point of disappointment, semantically speaking. I mean, I feel like some gushy teenage Foo Fighters fan.
Along these lines, Stitches is the most “rock” album to date to have come from the band. They really, really sound like some serious Bowie fans. And “Frosted Tips” is even better than “Headwires.”
As an annex to this, certain instrumental elements of this album are new to the Califone history, like strings, which play a prominent role in “Moses,” and harmonica, which does so in “Moonbath.Brainsalt.A.Holy.Fool.” It’s what hasn’t changed, though, that makes Stitches a savorable end table companion — little things like Rutilli pausing and letting the sound die into complete silence in the middle of a song, as he does on the painstakingly gorgeous “Moses” before commencing true progression of Americana headway with the best hacking mechanism he knows — subtle, gallant slide guitar.
“Moonbath.Brainsalt.A.Holy.Fool” was my favorite track until I got to “Moses,” and, like only the music that has been ordained to forever change our lives, our ways of thinking, even our physiognomies, can do, it shone down on me a new and audaciously facile way of perceiving what’s already right before me. Warm production, almost puerile in its overflowing attention to the details of the minutest speck-like sounds, helps make the introduction to this song meaningful while hauntingly simple. True gutsy music places statement first. In Califone’s case, though the chord progressions have become more conventional, a trend which ends up playing out more like a blessing than like a curse on Stitches because of the band’s stylistic ability and disciplined maturity, the statements always seem disarmingly strong. For instance, the change on phosphorescent Quicksand/Cradlesnake finale “Stepdaughter” was more haunting, but now the band is more adept and in its own in their respective chops niches. The best things to which to compare the mind state garnered by this band, when they’re at their best, are aromas. They are the first sense of freshly cut grass in April, they are your furnace rallying up for the genesis of winter, as you look out upon endless gray. And they are chicken soup, piping hot, emanating from the kitchen, where your mother stirs the pot.
At the Califone show I saw on September 11 in Pittsburgh, one audience member remarked to me that Rutilli “has to have one of the greatest voices.” I see no need to refute or corroborate this. Because, to me, he is one of the greatest musicians. His voice is inseperable from his lyrics, and Califone’s lyrics are inseperable from their music. None of this is new on Stitches, but the reason you should buy it, aside from the fact that, contrary to prior allegation, Ben Massarella actually does perform on the album, though he didn’t tour, is that they’re now more fully capable than ever of achieving perfect sonic balance, as they meld heart-rending guitar, piano and strings with the ever-present percussive knack, and sound/static blips so adroit I was surprised to look at the liner notes and see that the producer wasn’t Brian Deck. Never does one aspect dominate the others — Stitches plays like a perfect barometer for the individual listener’s reason, patience, hope and ideals. All strung into one, and dancing before you in starlight, yours to behold.

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