No ‘Funeral’ for Califone

All My Friends Are Funeral Singers

Pitchfork is known for swinging wide. It’s not uncommon for the taste-making website to build up a band’s reputation with a glowing review of one record, only to single-handedly destroy the group on their follow-up.

The possibility of such unpredictable and oft-unjustified wrath must cause anxiety for bands (and PR people alike). No matter how good a band’s work is, the off-chance that someone at Pitchfork is having a bad day—or just hasn’t had their coffee yet—can result in sudden and horrific calamity, like a dog turning on its owner.

Pitchfork and Califone have a track record, though, and it’s reassuring. Over the years, the site has reviewed nine Califone records, and not one has ever ranked below an 8. Would the fickle fork-wielding gods be so kind to Califone’s newest album? Would they grant the band the rare ten-fecta of 8.0+ ratings? Or, could the aforementioned gods destroy Califone just because they’ve been on such a long streak? One never knows for sure.

We finally got our answer this week, when Joe Tangari reviewed All My Friends Are Funeral Singers (or amfafs, as I like to call it) and lovingly gave it an 8.1:

“Giving Away the Bride” is one of the most radical deconstructions of normal rock production in the band’s catalog, eschewing even their normal roughly recorded acoustic guitars for a spaced-out beat and a monster of a distorted electronic bass figure, over which Rutili floats dreamily, intoning like a blues singer from the 1930s who got lost and tripped into the 21st century. The otherworldliness is so well-developed that it’s genuinely startling when the piano drops almost four minutes in or the live drums take up the rhythm a minute after that. If the band had hits, this would be among the greatest…

Yes, All My Friends Are Funeral Singers is just another Califone album, but it’s also a reminder of just what a special thing that is. They’ve carved a place in the rock landscape by discovering a previously ignored way of building a record and perfecting it over time through repetition. In my mind, it puts them in a lineage that includes bands like Talk Talk, Bark Psychosis, and This Heat, not sonically but artistically. If you’re already switched on to them, you have to hear this. If you’re not, well, what’s keeping you? The debate over which Califone record is their best just got even more complicated.

That whooshing sound you’re hearing is the collective sigh of relief from a nation of music listeners who love things that are amazing.

The record will be released in just a few days (Oct. 4). You can pre-order it on CD or 2xLP at Dead Oceans, Insound, and elsewhere. Pre-order customers will receive a link to download the album right away. For a taste, feel free to download the title track free of charge, immediately.

You can also pick up a copy of the album at one (or several) of their shows, beginning 10/10 in Chicago.

Tour Dates:
10-10 Chicago, IL – Museum of Contemporary Art #
10-11 Chicago, IL – Museum of Contemporary Art #
10-13 Pittsburgh, PA – Andy Warhol Museum #
10-14 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom #
10-15 Buffalo, NY – Mohawk Place
10-16 Ithaca, NY – Cornell Cinema #
10-17 Montreal, Quebec – Ukrainian Federation #
10-20 Northampton, MA – Iron Horse Music Hall #
10-21 Portland, ME – Space #
10-22 Cambridge, MA – Brattle Theater #
10-23 New York, NY – 92Y Tribeca #
10-24 Philadelphia, PA – World Cafe Live
10-25 Washington, DC – Rock and Roll Hotel
10-26 Charlottesville, VA – The Southern #
10-27 Atlanta, GA – The Earl
10-28 Birmingham, AL – WorkPlay Theatre #
10-30 Bloomington, IN – Bear’s Place #

# Film screening

3 thoughts on “No ‘Funeral’ for Califone”

  1. Thanks Marty, that's an excellent response.

    I agree, the Pitchfork review is full of backhanded compliments, but I'm definitely glad that an erratic writer didn't eviscerate it on a whim instead—as they appear to have done with the new Avett Brothers album, which is loved by everyone that I know.

    In general, I'm a little surprised that more people aren't raving about Funeral Singers. I think it's damn near perfect. Sure, it's received high marks from pretty much everywhere, but I agree, if Pitchfork was going to like it, I was expecting something in the nines or at least high eights.

    It seems like a lot of other blogs' reviews are based upon Pitchfork's criticisms, as well—calling it "more of the same," etc. This makes me wonder if there's an original thought anywhere in music blogging anymore (maybe there never was).

    When only one website matters, it kind of defeats the purpose of smaller sites writing reviews. It's part of the reason why we tend to review shows, rather than albums.

  2. I reviewed the disc for and gave it high remarks. It will probably be published next week, and I will cross post it on my site. Here's my synopsis:

    "This is machine-folk – music born out of the sun-beaten, boot-battered dusty front porches of rural America’s past, hooked up to an aural apparatus driven by rusty gears and gadgets that grind and grate its contrasting sonic elements into a record perfect for late-night hangs, solo walks with a good set of headphones, or a slow, contemplative drive."

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