what Abelson said.
#916: smog - i break horses (1999)
bill callahan writes obituary-bleak songs and sings them, sometimes under the name smog, in the best american baritone since johnny cash’s. it is an insult to describe his music as wooden, but his best songs will remind you of old trees that were here before your family, will last longer, and don’t care about who happens to be around at the moment.
except even branches are doomed in smog songs: tired birds fill them up and then blacken skies. but what’s terrifying about his music aren’t morose lyrics or even minor chords. it’s the same thing scares joan didion’s new readers every year: a wise person so disappointed in the most special people and the dearest things. wisdom? it doesn’t exist! romance? ha. the cosmos? no, bill callahan has dived into the muck. strangers’ living rooms glow warmer than his house’s. his widow flirts with the mourners at his funeral. he feels you riding on his back. you!
and that means you may have heard bonnie “prince” billy’s no more workhorse blues and thought to yourself that under no circumstances could you ever hear an american born as a william but releasing music under an obscure-sounding pseudonym sing a more upsetting equine-themed love song. then you hear i break horses and you weep.
but, reader, don’t worry: sometimes the weather lifts, and today bill callahan released a heaven hep the child cover. rejoice.