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Listening

Calla, Televise

It’s only January and already there’s a contender for Album of the Year. And, yes, this is it. What does it sound like? Yes, a cross between Nick Cave and My Bloody Valentine wouldn’t be totally off. But in the interest of science and because that wouldn’t be saying enough about how truly fantastic this album is, here’s a stab at description while listening, song by song.

‘Strangler’

Classical folkish dark-pop. Guitar-washed chorus. Hymn-like background vocals. Powerful lead-guitar riff. Brilliant lyric: ‘I would give anything, anything, just to see it happen to you.’ Minimalist, expert-formed riff-solo and squawks. Now rockish overtones. Throbbing Floyd? Looming background vocals. And: out.

‘Monument’

Evil twin sister of ‘Strangler.’ Percussion/bass notably muted/silenced. There, but hushed. Bumps and taps. Deadly guitar riff. Drums (very officially, and pronounced) rake in.

‘Astral’

Relaxed, blissed-out. Percussion mixed up a notch here. Maracas (I think)! Sounds great. An impeccably simple song, extraordinarily effective for it. Beautiful hook in chords structure. Lazy vocals, very warm, yet very distant. Melancholy, jazzy bass line, then reflected in guitar line. This song is perfect in just about every way. Unlike anything anyone ever does.

‘Don't Hold Your Breath’

Slow build. Bass slide. Maracas! Guitar line takes control of the direction, the roars over the top with a short bridge back into the verse. All instruments together, louder and louder, letting loose. Yeesh.

‘Pete The Killer’

Ethereal guitar, screeching pleasantly down in the mix. Bass pulling a nice, relaxed riff. Vocals closer in now, stronger. Altogether very dreamlike. Background distortion playing a bigger part, growing, moving to the foreground. Leaves as soon as it arrives.

‘Customized’

Different sound being explored here. Very pop guitar line. Gets darker in overall tone on three successive levels. How’d that happen? Overlaid lead vocals in chorus, back-and-forth. Backward guitar! Really, you just never hear that anymore, do you? And here it’s not even gimmicky. Back in the chorus: ahhh… This song is also perfect in just about every way.

‘As Quick As It Comes/Carrera’

Now this song has nothing but ‘dreamy’ written all over it. Calla evokes mood like few can. How is this even possible? There’s no sense of urgency at all. No sense of impending…anything. This is a song you want to last forever. Just keep doing what it’s doing. Hold on, hold on: We’re going into ‘Carrera.’ It begins building into something fantastic. This part’s nothing short of incredible—all vocals, guitar, and bass, softly pounding. Drums return to the picture! Still driving along, now getting further along. Picking up overtones of psychedelia. A Ride comparison (in drums, specifically) would not be totally out of place here. Neither would just fucking brilliant. Which isn’t really a comparison, it just warranted the detail.

‘Alacran’

Short, beautiful ethereal piece. Instrumental, moody. So short that you can appreciate it for being just what it is. Wow.

‘Televised’

A return to the mood established at the beginning of the album. Crunching guitar, hovering right on top of you. Drums crash, crash, crash. Hypnotic vocals, mantra-like, in a limited range. This is the most rock the album ever gets. Probably the smartest guitar riff in months. Which, when you consider how many people actually do play guitar and write songs, is actually a really long time. And these, apparently, are the kinds of things this album would actually make you think about. Calla at its ‘soulful.’ Yeah, this is full of soul. This would also be a good time to invoke the word ‘cathartic.’ Yes, it would. Holy shit.

‘Surface Scratch’

Softer, softer. Acoustic guitar, piano, cymbal roll-in. Aahhh. Effects simmering around overhead. Nice chord progression here. The song altogether changes. Kind of evokes ‘Eight-Line Poem.’ Guitar effects getting progressively more vocal. All feels very empty, very cold, but inviting. Like it’s ‘trying’ to be inviting, even though it’s giving a total cold shoulder. Definitely a glam feel swimming around inside. Bauhaus, even? Chilling. Drumbeat! Still Stark. Drumbeat! Something seems to be coming together now. The disparateness the song seemed established on is forming into a more coherent song. And a brilliant one at that. Strained, minimal vocals. Hey! Everything stops and we go into a sweet little number centered around the piano. Still pulling some Bowie pieces around here, but there seems to be something scurrying around on the floor of the song. Nobody’s chasing it, though. Scratching. Creak, creak, creak. Back (somehow) into part of the piano riff. Everything building stronger, ready for a big ending. How will it pay off? It’s starting to, going into well-placed jazz chords in parts to satisfy us all. Now bowing out: ‘A surface mark is so hard to see. A surface scratch you left upon me.’

And upon me as well. Wow. Brilliant. Incredible. There aren’t enough accolades to lay at the altar of this album. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe the feelings it emits, that it creates. There isn’t enough time left on earth to listen to this album enough times.



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Andrew Womack is a founding editor of The Morning News. He is always working on the next installment of the Albums of the Year series at TMN. More by Andrew Womack

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