Accumulation: None (Drag City)

Standing in the Shadows of Motown
Lo-fi troubadour Bill Callahan has been recording under his (Smog) moniker for more than a decade, and Accumulation: None is his first compilation album. But far from being a greatest-hits exercise, it's an album full of rarities, non-LP singles, and the odd unreleased cut. It's not the best way to draw in a new audience, but for those already familiar with Callahand's unique universe, the move seems par for the course.

His music is rife with introspection, regret, wistfulness, and longing, and Accumulation: None piles on these emotions in spades. The primitive recording style -- mainly solo Callahan on guitar and deep, twangy vocals, perhaps with a cheap-sounding drum machine keeping time -- reinforces the music-as-therapy sensation. Picture Beck sucking on a gas pipe rather than a bong.

But it's not all doom and gloom: For instance, Callahan's spontaneous dropping of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" into the coda of the restlessly aching ballad "Real Live Dress" is laugh-out-loud funny. It's precisely this black humor that makes Callahan a maverick musical genius, rather than a pimply Creative Writing major with a four-track.

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