What a week to be a fan of Tuscaloosa music! First, there’s a new release from Mary Tylosaur, a band that I mentioned in last week‘s column, which can be found here and coincides well with their Halloween show at Egan’s on October 31. They are the kings and queens of a Tuscaloosa Halloween, you know.
There’s also the release that just came out today, October 30th: a whole album’s worth of new material from Callooh! Callay! titled Talk, which already sets itself up to have a pervasive motif of communication. We’ll see.
What’s noticeable at first is that Talk isn’t as obvious as their first full-length release Sassprilluh Champagne, but that turns out to be rather meaningless. It opens with what could be symbolic sounds of brain waves, radio waves, or ocean waves floating through the ether of the album. Those waves disappear by blending with the opening chords of “Talker,” but they’re palpable, running throughout the rest of the album in spirit. It is an amazing amount of cohesion the band strives for and is able to achieve with Talk. On Sassprilluh Champagne, Callooh! Callay! struck a chord with listeners with beautiful melodies, easy to repeat and hum, and choruses that felt larger than they probably were. With Talk, the band seemingly set out to let the music grow, and it works: the songs live and breathe as a unit, which makes it a more idealized record. While there aren’t as many immediate stand-out tracks as previous works by the band (see their wonderful, yet overlooked, EP Wide Awake for example), there is this sense that the band worked even harder on every song and this is the direction that they want to take.
That’s not to say there aren’t great songs on Talk. There are. All of the songs are solid as hell, with “A Minor,” “Into the Wild,” and “Lift Me Up” as good as any songs other bands have been playing (and maybe a bit more profound). “Stereoface,” with the most catchy chorus of any of the songs, somehow captures this pervasive theme of sadness, so well captured by Adam Morrow’s lead vocals, that soaks all the songs. Yet “Stereoface” still remains an upbeat song. And that’s part of the dichotomy of this album. As Morrow states in “Shells”: “I’ll take my own way home,” and though he does, his voice is telling us that the path seems to be a little harder than he thought it would be.
The good news for new listeners and old fans is that this album won’t soon get tired. It is sonically dense enough with layers added to dig through. There’s more of Natalie Jensen’s hauntingly beautiful backing vocals, more of Morrow’s guitar effects, and more of other instruments not seen in the rest of Callooh! Callay!’s impressive catalog. I’ll be happy to see it released as a hard copy, via vinyl or CD.
I will also be interested to see how all of the new songs fit into the band’s live set by not having one another to rely on in sequence. My bet is that the songs will fall right into place exactly how they do on Talk.
The album is a slight challenge, which is not to say that it isn’t a fine record. It is a wonderful record. I just hope that people are patient with it and want to grow up with Callooh! Callay!, want to talk about this as much as I do. There’s that communication motif again.