New Califone Album, Stitches, out September 2
Title-track Single "Stitches" Available Now
There are many kind of stitches: seams to secure sleeves into armholes; sutures closing wounds and deep incisions; loops or crosses of embroidery floss; a sudden pain in the side. Stitches, the new album from Califone, touches on all these definitions, its episodes of discomfort and healing rendered with exquisite beauty and craftsmanship. Anchored by Tim Rutili, Califone has shared the title-track first single with Pitchfork today. Featuring Jessie Stein (The Luyas) on vocals, "Stitches" is a thematically appropriate introduction to an album teeming with a multitude of evocative images, ideas and sounds all threaded together at their adjoining borders.
Listen to "Stitches" on YouTube
Rutili has not been idle in the years since the release of Califone's critically acclaimed 2009 album All of My Friends Are Funeral Singers. He wrote scripts and painted and collaborated on the music for several films, including the score for the 2012 documentary Beauty Is Embarrassing and the Starz TV series BOSS.
In that time, he stopped all Califone activity for about a year. "Then one day I woke up and started writing songs again." The larger themes that would eventually reach fruition on Stitches began to emerge. "During this process, I started to really look at myself and find a clearer, more honest voice," he reveals. "I forced myself to write as much as possible. I allowed myself to be crabby and vulnerable as much as I could stand it."
"This is the only record I've made in my life where none of the work was done in Chicago," says Rutili, who commenced recording with Griffin Rodriguez in Los Angeles, Michael Krassner in Phoenix, and Craig Ross in Austin, along with a raft of guest musicians.
Intimate timbres—garage sale drum machines, slack guitar strings, hushed vocals—offset the album's cinematic inclinations. The listener moves through a landscape of Old Testament blood and guts, spaghetti Western deserts and Southwestern horizons, zeroing in on emotions and images that cannot be glanced over. Motes of dust dance briefly in afternoon sunlight.
Brass, pedal steel, and strings color in the edges and outlines songs like "Frosted Tips," "We Are A Payphone," "Moonbath.brainsalt.a.holy.fool" and "Moses," yet Stitches is no Ennio Morricone-meets-Cecil B. DeMille pastiche. Gritty electronics, the mesmerizing thrumming of tablas, and eerie keyboards also pepper these ten new selections. Uniquely homespun elements are interwoven into the songs, too, including sounds Rutili recorded in his backyard during rainfall and while driving in his car.
Rutili says, "We treated each song as its own particular planet. Bringing in different people and recording in different places helped bring some tension to the whole thing. I wanted this to be a more schizophrenic record, stitching together conflicting textures and feels." Rutili's old Red Red Meat colleague Tim Hurley stayed with him for a few months and they recorded together for the first time since Califone's eponymous 1998 debut EP.
In some regards, Stitches harks back to those earliest days of Califone. There was more home recording, and musicians came and went as the songs dictated. "It was a much more solitary process, and that freed me up to feel less self-conscious about singing and writing more personal lyrics." Yet the ultimate outcome sounds like the work of an artist reborn. "I tried to keep the songs visual and poetic, but it was more important to allow myself to feel and be vulnerable and not hide in the music," Rutili says. "Instead of writing from my balls and brain, this time I wrote from the nerves, skin, and heart."
Stitches Track Listing:
Movie Music Kills A Kiss
Bells Break Arms
A Thin Skin of Bullfight Dust
We are a Payphone
turtle eggs/an optimist
ALL MY FRIENDS ARE FUNERAL SINGERS
"The debate over which Califone record is their best just got even more complicated." --PITCHFORK
"Mixing multi-instrumental sonic invention with songcraft steeped in folk, blues and languorous heartache,All My Friends Are Funeral Singers is a slow-growing treasure that reveals a little more of itself with each listen" --MOJO
"A mix of lovely orchestration, rural twang, and avant-percussion [All My Friends Are Funeral Singers] finds Califone in top form, topped by Rutili's confiding yet haunted vocals." --CHICAGO TRIBUNE
"Engagingly warm-sounding tunes mating melodic accessibility with a winning lyrical evanescence powered by the same kind of poetic dream logic that's cropped up in Califone's concepts before"