Dream River

Bill Callahan - Dream River
Critic Score
Based on 26 reviews
2013 Ratings: #149 / 1061
Year End Rank: #36
User Score
Based on 166 ratings
2013 Ratings: #87
Liked by 1 person
September 17, 2013 / Release Date
LP / Format
Drag City / Label
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A.V. Club

As a portrayal of Bill Callahan by Bill Callahan, Dream River doesn’t chew an inch of scenery; instead it dwells in knowing glances and haunted whispers.

Beats Per Minute

There are so many divergent paths to take and so many depths to explore here that multiple listens are a given and implicitly expected. Dream River is as evocative a record as he’s ever made and that’s saying quite a lot. 


At its core, this is a record about accepting and even embracing the smallness of human life, and how difficult that can be, given our damnably innate sense of adventure, ambition, and restlessness.


Callahan’s early work as Smog painted him as a lo-fi sex case, but of late he’s adopted a sweeter, eddying Americana, and ‘Dream River’ takes a turn to lush country-soul.

Consequence of Sound

Much like Carver’s collections of short stories, Dream River feels clearly of one piece, though their narratives aren’t explicitly interrelated. They both speak with clarity, never wasting a word. It takes a mature, confident mind to let these thoughts unfurl this easily. 


With Dream River, fans already know what to expect from the man lyrically, and it can't be argued with qualitatively. When you place those lyrics in the context of something so subtly adventurous musically, the result is both engaging and seductive.

Tiny Mix Tapes

Dream River might not leap out at you, but it’s because it’s too cohesive, too flat to live a life outside of the porch of your mind, too bound up in a singularity of gaze to be anything other than what Callahan is preoccupied with at the moment. 


With the lightweight numbers up front and the centrepiece dominating the lacklustre cast around it, the album is surely one of the most uneven and unsatisfying in recent memory from Callahan.

Drowned in Sound

It is a great record, at times. But when the elements don’t quite chime it suffers. You’re left with the feeling of treading water, waiting for the whirlpool, waiting for the storm.

Under The Radar

While the songs on Dream River aren't what anyone would consider pedestrian, they don't feel particularly daring or weighty (especially after the more serious tone of 2011's Apocalypse). 

Another decent Callahan album, what else can be said? While the instrumentation can be derivative of acts like Dylan, there’s enough of a a spin on it to make it stand out on its own.

Standout; the sing
Favs: Seagull, Javelin unlanding, Winter road, Ride my arrow
Least fav: Small plane
Those last two tracks, "Seagull" and "Winter Road", are absolutely stunning; and yet the rest of the record—while as lyrically thoughtful and contemplative as ever—feels instrumentally tempered and restrained in such a way as to be a little too congruous, a little too mild-mannered, in the atmosphere it sets in motion. It doesn't arrest me, call me out of myself—or, as I've come to expect from Bill, challenge me—in the way Bill's best work can; though ... read more
My favorite of his once he ditched the Smog moniker. The instrumentation is so subtly rich throughout.
One of my personal favorite albums of 2013. Arguably his best work in his 'Bill Callahan' discography.
You know what you’re getting into with a Bill Callahan album, but that doesn’t make his music any less satisfying. “Dream River” is probably the easiest Callahan album to throw on — at eight songs and 40 minutes, it’s trim and to-the-point by Callahan standards. And though his meditations are as thoughtful and thorough as ever, the overall mood of “Dream River” is significantly lighter than that of “Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle” ... read more
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Track List

  1. The Sing
  2. Javelin Unlanding
  3. Small Plane
  4. Spring
  5. Ride My Arrow
  6. Summer Painter
  7. Seagull
  8. Winter Road
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Added on: June 18, 2013