For a long time, Bill Callahan, 56 today, embodied a certain idea of American alternative folk rock, a little depressed, often angry, battered and raw, certainly moving. Whether under the name of Smog – Red Apple Falls (1997) and Knock-Knock (1999) remain unmissable – and then solo. And then, in the mid-2010s, the eternal melancholy, sometimes fathead, married and became a father twice. And it totally transformed him.
More peaceful, almost smiling at times, the one we readily imagined as a Droopy country shows up, since the publication of Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest (2019) in a more benevolent light. “If you manage to express yourself without irony, it affects people all the more”he admits from Austin (Texas), where he lives.
This moult could be heard on the very beautiful Gold Record (2020), she still jumps to the ears on the magnificent Ytilaer, reality (reality) written backwards, “like sorcery, when the formulas reveal themselves only when you look at them in a mirror “, he explains.
Between praise of nature and love songs, this 8e solo album, 22e in all, is however far from being a bluette. Bill Callahan, who has never sung so well, touches in the depth of his voice the peaks (or the abysses, it depends) of a Leonard Cohen.
“I wasn’t sure of anything”
His recording was no picnic. Bill Callahan had to do it twice because of technical problems that made the first takes unusable. He also admits to having doubts: “Usually I have a sound in my head. For this album, I was sure of nothing. he confides.
Doubt has succeeded as this disc, with a larger group than usual, with other voices too, shows a Callahan at the top of his game. He remains crossed by cold anger, in particular on the upsetting Naked Souls, where he evokes the police violence and the shootings which strike America.
Elsewhere, he is reminiscent of a less electric Nick Cave (the hypnotic Bowevil), knows how to be almost perky (the very pop Natural Informationthe light Last One At The Party) and is above all contemplative through several songs that seem to float in the air.
Most of the tracks on this album exceed five minutes, giving Bill Callahan’s music time to unfold, to become even more elusive. Full of humanity and tenderness, Ytilaer turns out to be a moving disc, where it is good to take refuge. (Philip Mathe)
Ytilaer, 12 tracks, 61 minutes. (Drag City/Modulor)
The Discovery: Thomas Kahn
Drunk. Thomas Kahn has come a long way before finding his voice. That of the soul, of the soul. At the base, he rather bathed in the rock environment. Graphic designer for album covers, posters. Fan of Rage Against The Machine. “I had things inside me that were softer to express than this style of music could convey. I started getting closer to soul music. » After playing around with reggae. Absolutely sing, even in the Paris metro.
As a teenager, he resumed Georgia On My Mindof the dazzling Ray Charles, or walk the line, from the dark Johnny Cash. Today, he makes soul of a very high class. When we listen to this second album, we think of a new American nugget from labels like Colemine or Big Crown. This voice does not come from New York, but from Clermont-Ferrand. It is extremely well produced, very neat. It’s a nice tribute to Otis Redding, Sam Cooke. Closer to home, we think of the Black Pumas and Charles Bradley. Brass, keyboards and choirs perfectly accompany the voice of Thomas Kahn. (Jean-Marc Pinson)
This Is RealWild Music, 13 tracks, 46 min.
Rock. The risk for a group with a style as particular and influential as that of the Pixies is to try to follow in the footsteps of the four cult albums before their separation. Back on the road since 2004, Pixies have been hitting records since 2014. The first two were worthy but moderately exciting. the Beneath the Eyrie 2019 proved that the group led by Black Francis and Joey Santiago knew how to dig deeper into the register of melodiously haunting folk rock.
Doggerel confirm, with accents western big screen scored on several tracks, including the memorable single Vault of Heaven, or even new ways to rig semi-acoustic ballads. Both the playing and the backing vocals of bassist Paz Lenchantin don’t even make us regret Kim Deal’s absence. And while the supernatural still runs through Black Francis’ cryptic lyrics, the songwriter is also ironic about the promises of happiness high tech (Get Simulated). The spirit and essence of Pixies, without the weight of the past. (Philip Richard)
DoggerelInfectious, 12 tracks, 42 min.
The safe bet: Alexis HK
Song. Bittersweet… This is the expression that comes to mind when listening to this eighth album by Alexis HK. As if the era inspired in this sense the delicate words of the author-composer living in the vineyards of Nantes. From the first title, Bobo PlaygroundThe tone is set : “Nice peasant, don’t be bitter / One day you too will sell your farmhouse / For twice the price of a villa by the sea / When the start-uppers seek the great outdoors…” And as the song can do anything, the title that follows sees Donald Trump becoming good, pacifist, green…
Alexis HK thus observes his time with a good dose of derision, between the mother of yesterday and today, the young rapper and the little old man, the dreams of the Moon and the dreams of no one, the lonely house and the big building. Today’s stories told on an elegant pop that ends, gray-eyed, on the inhabited sidewalks of the City of Light: “I would like to ask forgiveness/I would like to be acquitted/When indifference answers/At the end of dignity…” (Michel Troadec)
Bobo Playground12 tracks, 44 min.
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Bill Callahan, Thomas Kahn, Pixies, Alexis HK… Our musical selection of the week
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