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Bill Callahan: Tiny Desk Concert

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.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)