. issue XXIII : iv .

by barathron

. artist : kirin j callinan .
. album : embracism .
. year : 2013 .
. label : terrible .
. grade: a .


“Musician’s musician” is a dubious title, but one that is pretty apt for Kirin Callinan. He doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, but years on the road playing in Mercy Arms and Jack Ladder’s band have helped Callinan accumulate some friends in high places. He just finished a tour supporting Cut Copy, and now Embracism, which was produced by Kim Moyes of The Presets and released on Terrible Records, Chris Taylor’s label of Grizzly Bear fame.

Since Callinan’s musical peers have already signed up, his solo debut Embracism is a coming out party for everyone else. And man, is there something for everyone. The dynamic range that Callinan’s voice travels over the course of the album is pretty remarkable. This could just as easily be an audition reel for a Pixar film as it is a musical document. He howls like a whiskey-gurgling Stanley Kowalski through the refrain of “Victoria” in “Victoria M” and through the trials of presumptive erectile dysfunction in “Love Delay” — just as easily as he mutters inscrutably through the first two minutes of “Way II War.” He croons through the bitter syrup of “Chardonnay Sean” and “Landslide,” songs so melodramatic he makes a convincing case that he’s telling the truth even when he repeats “I cry when I listen to Springsteen” (“Come On USA”).

Callinan throws the kitchen sink at the listener in all aspects of this record, too. On one hand, you can definitely hear producer Moyes’ influence through the spitfire robo-chittering and handclaps that forms the percussive foundation for most of the songs on the album, as well as some timbral choices that would be right at home on a Presets record, probably most salient in the dog-whistle screeches on the title track and the faux-brass pomp of “Come On USA.” That being said, there is definitely no sense that Moyes encroaches at all on Callinan’s peculiar vision. Callinan compliments the mechanical backdrop of the album with capacious reverbed-out guitars firing out of a pretty elaborate pedal collection. These “guitars” span the tranquil echoes in “Scraps” and “Landslide,” the haunting melodies of “Halo” and “Stretch it Out,” and constitute the percussive robo-grinding in the climax of the title track.

What the album lacks in cohesion, it makes up for in intrigue. At 10 songs, Embracism has the curtain closed on it long before it overstays his welcome, and I eagerly await Kirin Callinan’s next move.

by Elliot Wegman