“Califone is My Favorite Band of All Time. I Tried to Guess Their Top Five Most Streamed Songs on Spotify. I Got Two Right out of Five.”

Califone became my favorite band in 2007 when I purchased the Roots & Crowns CD (which had come out in ’06) from the Luna that used to be on Mass Ave. in Indianapolis. At first, I found the music a little bit anticlimactic and soft, like all technical chops and no inspiration, or something thereabouts. On track two, though, “Spiders House,” I noticed just an outpouring array of beauty and closure, with Tim Rutilli’s voice cloaking the despondent, melodic mix with perfect texture and emotion.

Since then, one of the formative experiences in my life has been my continuing quest to get other people into them, when they’re just so reticent to do so, whether they just don’t connect with the music or don’t have the attention span, or whatever. In general, the average Califone song length is only about four minutes or so, probably even lower than Wilco, so I doubt it’s the latter. Still, the band remains critically acclaimed, which I suppose sort of feeds my referential self, in a Narcissistic kind of way.

K so I love Spotify, am a Premium customer and literally utilize it on my mobile Android every single day… well today I decided to do a fun little experiment (I’m all about making up fun games lately… just the other day I made one up where you have to say a song you hate and see if the person you’re talking to likes it… it’s amazing how socially hazardous this endeavor can be!) where I search for the band and try to guess the first five songs that come up. I assume that this is the most-streamed songs, although the company seems to have a strange sort of algorithm where they combine mass popularity with their own critical recommendations… I can’t otherwise account for the wonky order the songs appeared in, where the most-streamed song was like second or third on the list. The numbers were gaudy, anyway, by Califone’s standards, with the number one streamer hitting at 811,669 (yes I know that’s low compared to J. Cole… thanks for reminding me, well-dressed millennial) and the others on the list all clocking in at well over 100 G.

Ok this is where my mind went to dark places. I thought on one hand, people don’t like to hear straight white men handle sexuality. And I thought on the other hand, when I was at this Breeders show in Denver the crowd erupted for the “The singer gets laid” line in “Walk it off,” which isn’t anywhere near embodying a musically climactic segment of that song. Case in point: cultural America seems to be in the midst of a schizophrenia where it partially quells sexuality and partially champions it to an inordinate extent. But I didn’t mean to imply that people are fu**ing idiots. No, I would never dream of saying that.

Anyway, with this latter of what I perceived to be a fixation on sexuality, I figured “Michigan Girls” would be one of the top five. This was the case even though this is nowhere near my favorite song on Quicksand/Cradlesnakes… it’s probably like my eighth or ninth favorite song on the album. Elsewhere, “The Orchids” is really popular, even though it’s a Psychic TV cover and Roots & Crowns is full of classic original songwriting, so I figured that would be one of them to. From there, I went back to the scrumping, making puppies, spelunking in the cave of wonders, call it what you will, to last album’s “Movie Music Kills a Kiss” (which ends in the video with that hunk Tim Rutilli kissing a girl… excuse me while I barf). And on we go to “Bunuel,” which I figured the art/film school student hipster douche bags would go ga-ga for despite the fact that it’s like the 10th best song on All My Friends are Funeral Singers, and “Chinese Actor,” since it’s like exactly like a Dinosaur Jr. song, so it doesn’t make you think too hard.

Well I stand corrected, and I stand back, in astonished amazement. “Magdalene” made the top five, easily the best song on the band’s solid and celestial last album, Stitches (2013). Also on the list that I didn’t think would be was “Bottles and Bones (Shades and Sympathy),” which I don’t actually prefer to its successor on Roomsound “Fisherman’s Wife” but has always apparently been a fan favorite and is definitely a passable enough tune, and “Funeral Singers,” a song which I’d figured would just be so depressing that the weak-minded would cast it off in favor of a new shell or façade, sound-wave, to climb into, but that also which I’ve never passed over in CD listenings, either.


Addenda 1: Dolby’s Top 25 Califone Songs

25 “Rattlesnakes Smell Like Split Cucumber” (Roomsound)

24 “Polish Girls” (All My Friends Are Funeral Singers)

23 “The Orchids” (Roots & Crowns)

22 “Spiders House” (Roots & Crowns)

21 “When Leon Spinx Moved into Town” (Quicksand/Cradlesnakes)

20 “Apple” (Heron King Blues)

19 “3Legged Animals” [1] (Roots & Crowns)

18 “Trick Bird” (Heron King Blues)

17 “Million Dollar Funeral” (Quicksand/Cradlesnakes)

16 “Rose Petal Ear” (Roots & Crowns)

15 “A Thin Skin of Bullfight Dust” (Stitches)

14 “Our Kitten Sees Ghosts” (Roots & Crowns)

13 “Sunday Noises” (Roots & Crowns)

12 “Slow Rt. Hand” (Roomsound)

11 “Stepdaughter” (Quicksand/Cradlesnakes)

10 “The Eye You Lost in the Crusades” (Roots & Crowns)

9 “Sawtooth Sung a Cheater’s Song” (Heron King Blues)

8 “Fisherman’s Wife” (Roomsound)

7 “Vampiring Again” (Quicksand/Cradlesnakes)

6 “Pastry Sharp” (Sometimes Good Weather Follows Bad People)

5 “Magdalene” (Stitches)

4 “Mean Little Seed” (Quicksand/Cradlesnakes)

3 “Lion and Bee” (Heron King Blues)

2 “Horoscopic.Amputation.Honey” (Quicksand/Cradlesnakes)

1 “Burned by the Christians” (Roots & Crowns)


Addenda 2: Addressing the Divine Effervescence of Retrograde on Califone Interface Compilation

Well this is certainly bizarre: on the Spotify interface for Califone – Roots & Crowns the company seems to have made two most inconspicuous spelling mistakes: dubbing “3Legged Animals” “3Leged Animals” and “Rose Petal Ear” “Rose Petal Eat.” Why could this be? Could it be that Califone has magical powers? Oh, Heavens no! Why would Dolby Disaster want to imply that!??


[1] I believe this is the correct stylization of this title… both Spotify and Wikipedia get it wrong, one forgetting that there isn’t a space and the other conspicuously misspelling the word “legged.” Smgdh.


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