Tim Rutili & Craig Ross - 10 Seconds to Collapse

by Tim Sentz Rating:8 Release Date:2018-06-22
Tim Rutili & Craig Ross - 10 Seconds to Collapse
Tim Rutili & Craig Ross - 10 Seconds to Collapse

It's been some time since the world heard from Tim Rutili, the lead singer of the beloved alternative-folk band Califone. After 2013's Stitches received lukewarm reviews, Rutili took some time off. A few scattered dates here and there in 2016 and a few bits of new music sprinkled about. So it came as a bit of a surprise when Rutili collaborated with Craig Ross and quietly released 10 Seconds to Collapse a few weeks ago. Given the cultish following that Califone has, what's even more surprising is how little attention this is getting.

Those looking for a continuation of Califone's 60s folk-pop melodies tinged with sun-dipped harmonies are in luck. 10 Seconds to Collapse welcomes you right in with "Like a Rifle," a Ross lead introduction to the next 35 minutes. Sounding like a cut lifted directly from All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, but instead of Rutili, we get Ross, who's sweet delivery is backdropped by the experimental folk we've come to know and love from Califone. This may not be a Califone record, but the comparisons are going to be there, especially once "The Day Before the Peaches Rot" comes into focus. Rutili's quivering voice makes you feel right at home again, just like all of the classic Califone records do. A minute or so in, and the foot stomping and clapping begins and we settle into another familiar and comfortable place.

Rutili is one of the more underrated songwriters of the last 30 years. He's managed to take two dissimilar genres and bend them together like only Wilco wishes they could have done. Far less popular than the big tenters like Fleet Foxes and the Decemberists, Rutili built a career off of fragility - something others don't like to do very often because it draws too many comparisons to whiny country music that no one's really a fan of. But Rutili has always managed to combine these elements into cathartic folk-pop, and after 30 years of writing these delicate melodies with Califone and Red Red Meat, it's comforting to hear a bit more of an upbeat version.

To say that 10 Seconds to Collapse is a pop album would be a disservice. One thing Califone always had in the background was the experimentation that bookended each album perfectly. And while those moments are scaled back here, they are replaced with some of Rutili's most endearing words - "Choke" finds him gazing lovingly into the eyes of someone, we don't know who, and don't need to know who, but it chokes him a little. Stitches wasn't this raw, and we haven't heard this kind of rawness from him since "Funeral Singers," one of his most beloved tracks.

This collaboration is not just about Rutili, though his presence gives star power. Ross is a worthy collaborator in his own right having spent years working with some of music's greatest talents like Robert Plant. He's no slouch, and the meticulous work put into these 7 songs is that of true auteurs, not tourists. It's a shame that this will fly under the radar, as it's one of the few albums in some time that I can say the artists involved legitimately love the work they've produced. There's a lot of care given to each track - "Back to the Plow" is the 7-minute centerpiece that highlights both singers balladry, and they drift with you down the river. This is music to lay in a hammock to at times but also run through a field barefoot.

The experimental tendencies of Califone do pop up, and that's never more present than on album closer "Little Carnivores." It starts like any other Rutili statement - gentle vocals and piano, brief slaps to the guitar, Ross harmonizes in the back, and then we just slide deep into this cacophony of organ and dissonance. It carries you to the end of the album gently but still disruptive. Those worried that Rutili had lost his touch are bound to be thankful 10 Seconds to Collapse exists. Fear that Rutili is becoming disconnected from his soul need not worry either, his heart is firmly invested in this - "Coma Tapes" tears at the heartstrings, and you can sense some bit of despair.

There may not be another Califone or Red Red Meat album in the pipeline any time soon, but that's okay. Ross and Rutili have created a gorgeous album of 60s inspired pop rock, while still keeping both feet on the folky plains. It's delicate but upbeat, and the two will embark on a "living room" tour in the near future - a perfect live setting for these trinkets of heart and soul.

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