It's a high compliment to suggest that these three Bill Callahan songs may well implant themselves in your brain, lay eggs and sprout horrifically disturbing dreams at that point when you're banging on the snooze alarm in a state of anguished early-morning half-sleep. After Callahan — a.k.a. The Artist Formerly Known As Smog — performed at the NPR Music offices, my own slumber was absolutely haunted by at least one line from each piece he played.
From "Jim Cain": "I used to be darker / Then I got lighter / Then I got dark again."
From "Rococo Zephyr": "I used to be sorta blind / But now I can sorta see."
From "Too Many Birds": "If you could only stop your heartbeat for one heartbeat..."
All three songs are highlights from Callahan's magnificent new album, Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle, and all three are rendered here in faithful detail by Callahan and his crack team of backing players. The singer is, for obvious reasons, the driving force in these performances — every sound orbits around his deep, detached voice — but all those strings and guitars exude subtle warmth to match Callahan's sly but sneakily empathetic words.
The result is a Tiny Desk Concert that's more serious than most, and at times almost eerily transfixing. Immerse yourself in it, and you may just re-live it in your darkest dreams.