In writing this review, I attempted to count how many albums Caleb Mulkerin and Colleen Kinsella have released over the past year, but shit’s just not worth tabulating. I can no longer keep up with what iteration of those Portland folk are still together (are Cerberus Shoal and Fire on Fire still active???) and when and who released what. For simplicity, let us assume that the number of releases Caleb and Colleen have secreted throughout the years is the very technical quantity ‘fuck load.’ I can almost surely (my faculties aren’t that certain) count on one hand how many albums Caleb, Colleen, Asian Mae, Rose Philistine, and miscellaneous strange Maine folk have put out under the Big Blood moniker this year—Dead Songs (Time-Lag), Night Terrors on the Isle of Louis Hardin (Cabin Floor Esoterica), Operators and Things (Dontrustheruin), PM50 (a compilation for Peasant Magik on which they appear), and now Dark Country Magic (Dontrustheruin) [that’s five, by the way]. So one could remark that that’s a mighty large number of albums for Big Blood this year, but given their prolific history, 2010 has just been another year’s work.
But one especially unique aspect to Big Blood’s 2010 output is how stylistically diverse it was. By their standards, Dead Songs was a straight-laced rocker, whereas the drone-folk of Night Terrors was their furtherest left of the dial and Operators and Things found Big Blood in their comfortable ‘freakier and folkier than Devendraohyoualreadyknowthejoke’ territory. This new venture, Dark Country Magic, is nestled between the aforementioned three. It combines the the group’s trademark weirdness with the strong, conventional songwriting of Dead Songs. Their magnificent song crafting shines through in more than one instance, but “She-Wander(er)” is without a doubt the highlight, another ‘track of the year’ in a long line of stellar Big Blood cuts (“Song for Baltimore,” “A Hole In One,” Oh Country (Skin & Bones),” etc.).
I never noticed until recently, but Big Blood are a band greatly influenced by their children, with references constantly popping up in Colleen’s lyrics. But not until Dark County Magic was this altogether obvious to me, with the critical mass of adorableness that is “Moo-Hoo” and the lovely collage insert of what I presume to be Caleb and Colleen’s children. While Big Blood may often employ dark themes, there never is a sense of despair in their music; there is always a shrining light. I’m constantly overwhelmed by an incredible joy for existence when listening, almost reborn. I think the influence of their children, the purity of youth, is partly responsible for this singularly positive aesthetic, and, in turn, why I love them so. As Danny said on his facebook, “Band of my life.”