Posted by Amelia Swhizzagers On 1:08 AM
Crank the reverb, slap some fresh duct tape on the Jazzmaster, guzzle a few downers, and hit the studio; when the dust settles and the ennui fades, you're bound to have hooked a few critics. So you can be forgiven for thinking Calla's fourth effort, Collisions, feels like a contrite set of Cliffs Notes on the drowsier end of today's indie rock. In some moments, the dense, layered guitars and crystalline bass tones gesture toward the soundscapades of Texans Lift to Experience and Explosions in the Sky and the New York-Boston cabal of groups like Codeine and Longwave. At other points, however-- such as rich but austere opener "It Dawned On Me"-- there are hints of the more acerbic songcraft of the Wrens or earlier Death Cab.
In its best moments, Collisions has an edge that's grittier and more emphatic than its predecessor. While Calla fans won't be caught off guard by the changes, the tempos are faster, the swells are louder, and generally there's a little more meat on the bone. Collisions sounds like a record born of a few studio punch-ups, with a through-the-teeth delivery and a pervading tension. This muted anger adds a welcome sonic energy-- particularly when the atmospherics seem a bit borrowed.
With the exception of the occasional muted growl, Calla singer Aurelio Valle's reverb-drenched lower-register vocals smack a bit of Conor Oberst, Joe Pernice, or Elliott Smith, particularly juxtaposed against the Luna guitars of songs like "Initiate" or the pseudo-neo-psychedelia of "Stumble" and "Swagger".
Despite the sheer familiarity of it all, Collisions is a good album. The guitar drones could be a little more bowel-shaking, some EBow could be higher in the mix, the vocals could be a bit more dry, and the lyrics could worm their way into your gut a little more ineffably, but there are some inspired sonic touches-- listen closely for well-camouflaged tambourine, organ, and harmonica popping up across the musical backdrops. The sounds are lush and beautiful-- even if they're difficult to filter down to an emotional core. It's not that Calla are particular coy or even too arch, it's just that it doesn't breathe and sweat and ache like an album that you're meant to go really gaga over. It's elegant in its perhaps unwitting syncretism but it's not something that can truly hurt you, which, when you really do scale back to Loveless or the other gilded Rosetta stones, seems to be a big part of the point: A Collisions without casualties is just a pretty collage.
1. It Dawned On Me
3. This Better Go As Planned
4. Play Dead
6. So Far, So What