Bill Callahan started out in the early '90s as more of an experimental musician, partnering his lyrics with dissonance and odd instrumental choices, slowly building his melodies over multiple albums and eventually recording in a proper studio with other musicians. Since ditching his stage name (Smog), Callahan has been on a course of personal questioning. His songs still reflect his experiences with personal relationships, but on Apocalypse and 2009's excellent Sometimes I Wish I Were an Eagle, Callahan's focus seems more concentrated on landscapes and how people respond to distance.
Apocalypse finds Callahan all at once wearing the shoes of a gardener, cattle driver, sailor and songwriter as he ponders the rugged and untamed background of America. He does so with brief distorted riffs, flutes, distant keys, whistling and earthy percussion paired with his baritone vocals. This album is beautifully executed yet never feels like it was labored over. Callahan's voice is confident and casual (listen for Callahan's vocal clicks, and "oohs") just as the instrumentation is assuredly rehearsed, but at times feels improvised over Callahan's delivery.
The beauty found on Apocalypse is both familiar and mysterious. Callahan doesn't pretend to understand his revelations, but places them in a context we know and want to explore.