Dream River - Bill Callahan
Metascore
84

Universal acclaim - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33
  1. Sep 16, 2013
    70
    With Dream River, fans already know what to expect from the man lyrically, and it can't be argued with qualitatively. When you place those lyrics in the context of something so subtly adventurous musically, the result is both engaging and seductive.
  2. Sep 27, 2013
    80
    There is no such thing as a bad moment on Dream River. That being said, I wish that he chose to use a different percussion instrument than bringing back the claves for back-to-back “Summer Painter” and “Seagull”, neither of which use the instrument as well as “The Sing” did.
  3. Sep 17, 2013
    85
    At its core, this is a record about accepting and even embracing the smallness of human life, and how difficult that can be, given our damnably innate sense of adventure, ambition, and restlessness.
  4. Sep 11, 2013
    90
    Dream River [is] among Callahan's very best. [Oct 2013, p.63]
  5. Oct 11, 2013
    80
    Imagery and music intertwine elegantly on Small Plane and The Sing and if it's not up there with Callahan's very best work, Dream River still runs deep. [Nov 2013, p.102]
  6. Sep 19, 2013
    100
    Dream River may be Callahan's most beguiling album yet. [Oct 2013, p.89]
  7. Sep 17, 2013
    70
    His music is loose and rustic, his writing skirts the heart of the matter instead of bulldozing into it, and his careful deadpan imbues everyday statements with almost mystical resonance.
  8. 80
    Of late he’s adopted a sweeter, eddying Americana, and Dream River takes a turn to lush country-soul.
  9. Sep 17, 2013
    91
    Dream River doesn’t chew an inch of scenery; instead it dwells in knowing glances and haunted whispers.
  10. Sep 11, 2013
    50
    While the songs on Dream River aren't what anyone would consider pedestrian, they don't feel particularly daring or weighty. [Aug-Sep 2013, p.87]
  11. Sep 11, 2013
    60
    With the lightweight numbers up front and the centrepiece dominating the lacklustre cast around it, the album is surely one of the most uneven and unsatisfying in recent memory from Callahan.
  12. Sep 16, 2013
    60
    It is a great record, at times. But when the elements don’t quite chime it suffers.
  13. Sep 18, 2013
    80
    Dream River flows from one track to the next, with a similarity of tempo that makes it play like eight movements of one 40-minute song. But a few moments stand out.
  14. 80
    Thanks to the rich clarity of his delivery and the prominent place that the vocals take in the mix, Callahan’s lyrics cast a long shadow over the rest of the album, allowing the literary connotations to carry over into analysis.
  15. Sep 17, 2013
    70
    For a record preoccupied with usefulness, it’s unsurprising that that’s the case. There’s no room for artifice; he’s got to tell it like it is, because the telling is the moving, and the moving is the riding, and the riding is the living.
  16. Sep 17, 2013
    80
    There’s plenty to chew on with his latest, Dream River. And that’s just the lyrics, whose weightiness is given more heft by his controlled baritone.
  17. Sep 16, 2013
    86
    In a world that increasingly rewards short attention spans and encourages distractions, Callahan’s music is well worth taking the time to patiently absorb.
  18. Sep 25, 2013
    80
    It’s subtly more adventurous, and certainly scarier, in the way that even mundane things are always scarier in dreams, filtered through a disordered mind, revealing painful truths in unexpected places.
  19. Dec 30, 2013
    90
    Dream River is probably as evocative a record as Callahan has ever made, and that really is saying a great deal when considering his extensive back catalog.
  20. Sep 17, 2013
    90
    With eight songs that unfurl to 40 minutes, it’s impeccably crafted and plays off a mercurial tension between Callahan’s voice--a parched yet resonant baritone--and the lush arrangements that envelop it.
  21. Sep 19, 2013
    70
    Their scope isn't quite as broad as 2011's Apocalypse or as emotionally complex as 2009's Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle, but they are full of sharp observations and wit. [No. 102, p.54]
  22. Sep 26, 2013
    78
    Callahan's search for meaning becomes fully realized when he's finally connected to another.
  23. Sep 18, 2013
    90
    You sense that he’s walked past those doors, revising his ideas, waiting, looking for something. He’s found it. Listen through his astonishing new album, Dream River, and you will hear, lined up neatly, his trademarks.
  24. Sep 18, 2013
    90
    Dream River is required reading, without a doubt.
  25. Sep 19, 2013
    80
    Here, we hear hints of funk, jazz, Americana and folk--and before you know it, the album’s ingrained itself.
  26. 85
    Musically, Dream River sticks calmly to understated Americana, generally managing to pull off Lambchop’s neat one-inch punch trick--seemingly effortless and gentle, only to echo with far more drama and beautifully powerful resonance.
  27. Sep 25, 2013
    80
    The result is something stranger and more off-kilter than either of its predecessors, but equally distinctive.
  28. 60
    Bill Callahan's follow-up to 2011's gorgeous Apocalypse finds him in the company of a small, discreet band, whose gentle shuffles are coloured mostly by guitar, fiddle and flute, as his muse flits haphazardly about him. [The Independent scored this a 3/5 in the actual printed edition not 5/5 as seen on its online edition]
  29. Dream River is as evocative a record as he’s ever made and that’s saying quite a lot.
  30. Sep 16, 2013
    80
    The arrangements on Dream River are almost as eloquent as his lyrics.
  31. Though his appeal remains frustratingly specialist, with each release it becomes clearer that Callahan is the natural successor to Leonard Cohen.
  32. 80
    In its strongest moments--though there are no real weak moments to speak of--Dream River presents a compelling, gorgeous sonic world in which to get blissfully lost.
  33. Oct 30, 2013
    80
    A deft, balanced and measured record.
User Score
8.2

Universal acclaim- based on 19 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 4
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 4
  3. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. Sep 20, 2013
    9
    This is a really terrific album. I put on my headphones and started listening to it while taking care of some stuff on my PC. Then i heard theThis is a really terrific album. I put on my headphones and started listening to it while taking care of some stuff on my PC. Then i heard the second track (Javelin Unlanding), and it really caught my attention. After that, i completely dropped what i was doing and enjoyed this great work from this great man. This is an album best heard while sitting back and unwinding. Beautiful and subtle lyrics, mesmerizing music that provides the right complement to Bill Callahan's vocals. His voice is great as well. This is the first time i listen to his work, but i will definitely check out his discography as soon as i can. Full Review »
  2. Mar 7, 2014
    9
    Dopo una certa frequentazione ai tempi degli Smog, avevo perso i contatti con Bill Callahan e, al termine di numerosi ascolti di questoDopo una certa frequentazione ai tempi degli Smog, avevo perso i contatti con Bill Callahan e, al termine di numerosi ascolti di questo brumoso dischetto, direi che non è stata una mossa saggia. Ho ritrovato una voce ancor più bassa e affascinante nonchè, soprattutto, un autore che ha affinato l’arte del togliere, costruendo le sue canzoni su pochi suoni essenziali (in ‘Dream river’ la batteria è assente, solo percussioni discrete e spazzole a cura di Thor Harris) e su testi che procedono per immagini che scaturiscono fulminee da frasi semplici nella forma, ma evocative nella sostanza. Da simili premesse, è facile intuire che queste otto canzoni non possono essere particolarmente allegre, del resto in linea con il resto dell’opera del loro autore: su tutto il disco si spande una crepuscolare luce d‘autunno, però, più che alle angosce esistenziali, l’atteggiamento complessivo fa pensare a un pacato racconto accanto al camino. Questa rilassatezza, contrappuntata qua e là da una certa ironia – già a partire dal tizio della prima canzone, quello che guarda da una finestra che non c’è e che in una giornata ha detto solo ‘birra’ e ‘grazie’, ma l’ha ripetuto un bel po’ di volte – fa sì che l’ascoltatore si faccia avvolgere volentieri dall’atmosfera, anche perché Callahan, sul canovaccio del cantautorato introspettivo, sa introdurre con abilità spunti diversi. Può succedere all’interno dello stesso brano – basti pensare al treno che ‘appare’ per un attimo ancora nell’iniziale ‘The sing’ interrompendone la dolcezza folk guidata dal violino (Chojo Jacques) – e di certo tra una canzone e l’altra: se ‘Small plane’ è una bella ballata acustica, l’elettrica guida sia ‘Javelin unlanding’, sia ‘Spring’ che, entrambe forti anche del prezioso flauto di Beth Galiger, procedono su un ritmo più serrato e con la seconda che prima evoca scenari desertici e poi si alza di tono tra piano e chitarra che si distorce. Un po’ quello che accade alla complessa ‘Summer painter’, dove, per oltre sei minuti, le contorsioni della sei corde e il flauto dialogano alternandosi a un cantato più ansiogeno, in una struttura analoga ma maggiormente ispida di quella presente in ‘Ride my arrow’. Quasi che si fosse accorto che, a questo punto, i toni si sono scuriti un po’ troppo, Callahan inserisce i tocchi tra jazz e tango di ‘Seagull’, che finisce così per richiamare le sonorità di un altro grande baritono come Leonard Cohen, per poi chiudere il cerchio con la fascinosa ‘Winter song’ in cui ritroviamo fiddle e accompagnamento alla chitarra acustica. Trattandosi di canzoni abbastanza rarefatte, anche i compagni di viaggio di Bill sono pochi e, oltre a quelli già citati, si segnalano il basso di Jaime Zuverza e, in special modo, la chitarra di Matt Kinsey che contribuisce a dare la definitiva coloritura a molte canzoni: canzoni che hanno colori pastosi e non definiti come il paesaggio montano del dipinto di Paul Ryan in copertina, ma che, allo stesso modo di quello, catturano subito l’attenzione e sanno davvero farsi ricordare. Full Review »
  3. Kas
    Sep 20, 2013
    9
    "Dream River" feels like a fulfillment of 2011's "Apocalypse," in both sound and sentiment. The introversion and existentialism of"Dream River" feels like a fulfillment of 2011's "Apocalypse," in both sound and sentiment. The introversion and existentialism of "Apocalypse" has resolved into contentment and personal outreach, and its backing musicians return sounding fuller and more vibrant. "Javelin Unlanding" quivers with energy, setting the flutes of "Apocalypse" amidst echoing vocals and galloping hand percussion. Guitarist Matt Kinsey brings melodic life Callahan's words, rising to a distorted climax during the sexual pleas of "Spring" and evoking an approaching storm midway through "Summer Painter." Bill's own emergence may start tentatively he's come out from reckoning with his demo tapes on the hotel bed from "Riding for the Feeling" to seek company in the lobby bar on "The Sing," only to find (in true Callahan fashion) all of its patrons asleep. Yet by "Small Plane" he is sharing the controls with a partner and lifting off the ground with ease, as fingerpicked electric guitars update the contemplative drift of "Riding." Yet it's slide-guitar lead that hearkens back furthest, to 1997's "To Be of Use", a context that lends his closing observation "I really am a lucky man" a feeling of hard-won reward. Though its range-y sound and dream-logic structure may put it behind 2009's "Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle" in terms of memorable songs, it's the way "Dream River" progresses so gracefully from the quietly brilliant "Apocalypse" that earns its stature among his best work. Full Review »