Bill Callahan’s deadpan delivery makes even the jokes sound deadly serious on “Knock Knock,” the seventh album he recorded under the name Smog.
“Knock Knock” ranks among the Maryland-born musician’s most respected works and rightfully so. The indie boogie of “Cold-Blooded Old Times” earned it a spot on multiple turn-of-the-millennium movie soundtracks, while “Held” was appropriated for a Cadillac Escalade commercial.
But more than commercial appeal is Callahan’s ability to pen a tune. “Teenage Spaceship” manages to both be touching and absurd, in large part due to his distinctive singing. “River Guard” burns to its big finish, when a bittersweet guitar solo accompanies the drooping piano melody.
Callahan shows the most emotion on “Left Only With Love,” revealing a fragility in his voice that shows underneath the facade is a feeling, deep person.
But it’s only a glimpse. For much of “Knock Knock,” you can see the sneer across his face, no matter how sincere he tries to sound.
Our Music Year is Daily Republic popular culture writer Nick DeCicco’s yearlong online review in 2012 of albums he had previously not listened to. The reviews will appear in print on their corresponding days during 2013. Reach him at 427-6966 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.