Part experimental indie and part ‘70s soft rock, Califone’s first record in three years finds creative force Tim Rutili reaching new levels of harmony, fragility, and confidence. Whether detailing aging goths retaining their identity through year-long spooky decorations (“Halloween”), an imagined conversation with an inbred monarch (“Habsburg Jaw”), or the conflicts between identity and technology (“Ox-Eye”), Villagers’ nine tracks spread out and luxuriates in the messy darkness of modern life. Like sitting in awe on the porch swing at the end of the world, Califone’s latest marvels at the edge of the universe spreading into the darkness of infinity.
With 25 years of Califone in his catalog (not to mention a variety of other projects, including alt rock heroes Red Red Meat), the Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based knows well how to find that moment of awe and bliss even as things are falling apart. Part poet, part abstract painter, and always surrounded by a variety of hyper-talented collaborators (here including longtime cohorts Ben Massarella, Michael Krassner, Rachel Blumberg, and Brian Deck, as well as the likes of Nora O'Connor and Finom's Macie Stewart), Rutili has always excelled at luring listeners through elusive lyrics, flashes of shadows and images coming together in disarming unity.