Bill’s back! A new record from the Artist Formerly Known as Smog is always a cause for celebration, and though they say he now lives near Austin, his local gigs are sadly sparse. 2011’s Apocalypse, with its Western glow and desolate poetry, was the best post-Smog outing yet; Bill must have sensed this, since he’s brought back the excellent Matt Kinsey, whose lanky, kinetic guitar scrawls did so much for that record. Opener “The Sing” is one of his funniest in years: “the only words I’ve said today are ‘beer’ and ‘thank you’”—words that then become a kind of chorus. The nimbly galloping beat and flute-powered melody of “Javelin Unlanding” make it the most taut and radio-ready tune, while the melancholy “Small Plane,” featuring a bright, gliding guitar line, is as fragile and intimate as its title. On meatier tracks like “Summer Painter,” backed by Kinsey’s slow roar, he plays the surreal backwoods shaman: “like a sorcerer’s cape / The rain ripped the lips off the mouth of the bay,” he rumbles, and you just have to say yes. As always, Callahan’s bottomless bass voice makes every half-sung, half-spoken verse sound at once casual and potently spiritual. If any album ever deserved a lyrics booklet, it’s Dream River: read and admire lines like “You looked like worldwide Armageddon / While you slept” and “With all the tolls we pay / We’ll own the highway someday.” With Bill at the wheel, you couldn’t care less where that highway goes.