NPR logo

Too Many Birds

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/103935785/103934446" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Bill Callahan: The Downside Of Flight

Bill Callahan: The Downside Of Flight

Too Many Birds

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/103935785/103934446" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Friday's Pick

  • Song: "Too Many Birds"
  • Artist: Bill Callahan
  • CD: Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle
  • Genre: Folk-Rock

Near the beginning of his new album, Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle, Austin-based singer-songwriter Bill Callahan (best known for his work as Smog) tells the listener that he "used to be darker / then I got lighter / then I got dark again." In the disc's emotional centerpiece, "Too Many Birds," he displays a bleakness to back that up. Ostensibly about identity, the track opens with a soft acoustic-guitar strum and the story of a blackbird "without a place to land / without a place to be." Finding its desired resting tree to be full of other birds, the avian narrator searches in vain for the last place it slept, flying through the night but finding only "stone."

Bill Callahan 300

For Bill Callahan's avian narrator in "Too Many Birds," it's not so great to fly if you've got nowhere to land. Joanna Newsom hide caption

toggle caption Joanna Newsom

A plaintive cello mourns the bird's crisis as Callahan begins slowly assessing its desires: "If / if you / if you could / if you could only," he begins, before blackly concluding, "If you could only stop your heartbeat for one heartbeat." This thought seems to offer comfort, and for a few measures, the song swells with encouraging strings and strums. But it abruptly falls of a cliff, concluding with 20 seconds of silence. In the end, "Too Many Birds" flips the traditional bird-as-freedom metaphor on its head. For Callahan, it's not so great to fly if you've got nowhere to land.

Listen to yesterday's Song of the Day, and subscribe to the Song of the Day newsletter.

Purchase Featured Music

Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle

Purchase Music

Buy Featured Music

Album
Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle
Artist
Bill Callahan
Label
Drag City
Released
2009

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.