Julius Caesar

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Like grainy snapshots taken in an instant-photo booth, Julius Caesar's 13 songs have a fuzzy, distinctive character, heightened by their low-budget surroundings. Darker songs like "Your Wedding" and "What Kind of Angel" sound even blacker because of the muddy, distorted sound quality. "What Kind of Angel" in particular exploits lo-fi's lack of detail, blurring Bill Callahan's vocals and slide guitars into a rage of noise. Poignant moments like the cello-based instrumental "One Less Star" and ballads such as "Golden" and "Chosen One" have an even more bittersweet feel thanks to the bedroom-quality production. Other tracks use the lo-fi aesthetic as their musical focus: "I Am Star Wars!" uses a cheap drum machine and tape loops of the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" and "Honky Tonk Women" for an unusual, funny foray into sampling on the cheap, while the drums on "Parade" sound suspiciously like tin cans. Julius Caesar's wide emotional and sonic palette is contrasted by Callahan's consistently honest, often blunt lyrics. Whether they're self-mocking ("I feel like Travis Bickle, listening to 'Highway to Hell'/It's a sh*tty little tape I taped off the radio," from "37 Push Ups") or nonsensically logical ("I am Star Wars today/I am no longer English Grey," from "I Am Star Wars!") or wistful ("Chosen One's" "Maybe it's best for you to ride into the sun"), Callahan's sentiments are anything but sentimental. An immensely creative album, Julius Caesar's artistic, arranged approach to lo-fi displays Callahan's willingness to grow and experiment as a musician and storyteller.

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