The first long-player from bluesy, experimental Chicago-based roots rockers Califone to be recorded entirely outside of the confines of the Windy City, Stitches' ten quietly lustrous tracks dutifully reflect the arid Southwest vistas from which they were sprung. Recorded in Southern California, Arizona, and Texas, there's definitely an impressionistic, unhurried temperament behind songs like "Movie Music Kills a Kiss," "moonbath.brainsalt.a.holy.fool," and "We Are a Payphone" that suggests that miles upon miles of diners, rest stops, strip malls, and buckshot-riddled exit signs were consumed between studio sessions. Tim Rutili's laconic yet expressive voice serves as the perfect filter with which to digest enigmatic lyrics like "Guardian angel/belly full of twins/churning in the long con" from the driving, hurdy-gurdy and horn-fueled "Frosted Tips," which, like the similarly propulsive of "A Thin Skin of Bullfight Dust," finds the band abandoning some of the more ambient flourishes that have colored prior outings in favor of a more traditional pop/rock approach that should appeal to fans of boundary-pushing, yet reasonably accessible acts like Calexico, Giant Sand, and the Court & Spark. Stitches is at its best when it aims for somewhere in between the cacophonous and the weightless, offering up a pair of gems in the affecting, Beatles-esque waltz "Magdalene" and the fractured, quietly desperate title track, the latter of which, like much of the album, is built on a foundation of nervous violence ("The blood left my hands sucking the whiskey out of your hair") that diminishes with each warm, comforting stroke of melody.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger