Bill Callahan, Death Cab For Cutie, Telepathe and more: Really Quick Spins

Bill Callahan - "Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle"
Bill Callahan (nee Smog) is drier than a Saltine. I've been listening to and loving him ("Knock Knock" and "A River Ain't Too Much to Love" are all-timers) for almost half my life and I still can't quite tell when he's being serious or putting one over on us, much thanks to his conversational speak-sing voice that's hard to penetrate. I mean, check out that album title. Does he really wish he was an eagle? I think he does; he sounds like he's ready to fly away from the misery that he's been feeling lately. The organic, gently rollicking folk songs are extremely meditative, which matches the lyrical content. Callahan seems to have entered some sort of Jens Lekman phase, where dripping sincerity and dry humor work beautifully in tandem.
Bill Callahan - "Jim Cain"

Death Cab for Cutie - "The Open Door EP"
Maybe Ben Gibbard isn't so depressed after all. (How could he be? He's marrying this girl. Kids, do everything you can to become a rock star.) He sure sounded down in the dumps on last year's "Narrow Stairs," but if this EP of leftovers is any indication, the band was just going for a particular mood on its big breakthrough. The four songs here (plus a demo of "Talking Bird") are all peppy and poppy and perfectly pleasant. Chris Walla's guitar textures and intricate production have come to define the band almost as much as Gibbard's heart-on-sleeve lyrics and yearning vocals, so it feels like there's a little something missing, but it is just a stop-gap EP.
Death Cab For Cutie - "Little Bribes"

Telepathe - "Dance Mother"
Programmed beats, big synth washes, retro feel, songs that don't always feel like actual songs, lyrics that don't say too much -- but it kind of works. Most of the credit for that will probably be given to TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek, who produced the album. But it's the doubled-up vocals by Melissa Livaudais and Busy Gangnes that give the songs that human touch and reminds you there are actual people behind these songs. "So Fine" sounds like vintage Ladytron, "Can't Stand It" sounds like vintage Broadcast. Maybe there won't ever be vintage Telepathe but I'll probably put one of those two songs on my next On-The-Go playlist, even if I don't listen to the album again after June.
Telepathe - "Can't Stand It"

(More reviews after the jump.)

John Doe and the Sadies - Country Club
It's still two months until Father's Day but if you've got a hip dad who likes things that are a bit twangy you might want to file this one away for future reference. The former X axeman teams with Canadian alt-country rockers for a set of retro covers and a few old-timey originals. There are plenty of tearjerkers -- "Are the Good Times Really Over For Good," "I Still Miss Someone," "Take These Chains From My Heart" -- but they've all got that roadhouse vibe, equal parts crying in your beer and smashing someone on the head with a beer glass.
John Doe and the Sadies - "Stop the World and Let Me Get Off"

Papercuts - You Can Have What You Want
Slow, sleepy shuffles sung by a dude who sounds like he's too tired to even open his mouth to get the words out. It's hard to imagine listening to this album on a sunny day, or even during daylight hours at all. That doesn't mean it's bad; the songs tend to bleed into each other, so it's like one long dirge, but at least it's a pretty good dirge. Music for naps. But who doesn't love naps?
Papercuts - "You Can Have What You Want"

Circus Devils - Gringo
If you're only going to buy five Robert Pollard releases this year, well, this one might sneak in there. It depends what you want from your Pollard fix. Do you want a prog-psych, all-acoustic, mostly hook-free concept album about a guy named Gringo? If so, then enjoy. But if you're looking for the big riff, mic twirling, Guided By Voices-sounding stuff, you won't find much of it here. It's cool that he doesn't just pump out the same basement/arena rockers under different names, but only the most Postal of Blowfish will need to add this one to the collection.
Circus Devils - "Ships From Prison to Prison"

Wooden Shjips - Dos
It's deja vu all over again -- and again, and again -- on the latest from these psychedelic San Franciscans. Here's what you get: 1) a Krautrock rhythm section sticking on the same propulsive groove for the entirety of the song, whether that's four minutes or 11 minutes, 2) a handful of almost-audible vocals that sound like Alan Vega's quieter moments, 3) a whole lot of fuzzed-out, mind-bending guitar workouts. I approve.
Wooden Shjips - "Motorbike"

By David Malitz |  April 14, 2009; 4:59 PM ET Really Quick Spins
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