Review: Kirin J. Callinan Shows Remarkable Range With New Album ‘Return to Center’


Kirin J. Callinan is like no other. The dramatic Australian musician who oozes talent through every pore sweeps the listener away with a romantic album of covers with Return to Center.

Knowing the good-natured, kilt-sporting creative, it’s no surprise there’s a funny story to the title of the new album, Return to Center (June 21, Terrible Records). Apparently it’s derived from Callinan’s rapid-fire recording session with equipment purchased for a few days, which was then was rapidly returned to Guitar Center.

Kirin Callinan to release Return To Center on June 21 – Photo by Donna Balancia

It’s the kind of story upon which Callinan thrives. He’s been around for a while although in the United States he’s not quite yet a household name. Which household is the question. He has had a remarkable career thus far, working with bands and musicians such as Tame Impala, Mac DeMarco and Mark Ronson. He’s pals with Pond and even made an impromptu appearance at a GUM show at Hollywood Forever last year. He acts and he dances, employing his trademark moves, and to simply say that Callinan can sing does this one-in-a-million voice a serious injustice.

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Callinan has never been one to shy away from exploring a new angle on a topic or exotic idea. He has a uniquely expressive voice, as if the weight of the world were coming down not onto his lithe shoulders, but instead on the other poor soul across the room. We feel his pain and also his happiness with every note and he truly is an artist in an elite class of those who don’t sacrifice their art for the sake of the almighty dollar.

The cover songs assembled on Return to Center suit Callinan, as even though he can be seen hanging around with the blokes, he’s a gifted dramatic performer easily admitted to the finer side of the art world. Callinan selected the tracklist perhaps more randomly than one may think. “The Whole of The Moon,” originally performed by the Waterboys, couldn’t be any further from the reality of Public Image Ltd’s “Rise,” both of which he honors in his own emotive fashion.

The title track, Return to Center, is an instrumental that is almost intermission-like in its layout on the album, punctuated by some of Callinan’s laughter and preparing the listener for what lies ahead.

Kirin Callinan Whole of the Moon Return To Center

Callinan perhaps hasn’t paid his dues in the eyes of the big guys, or maybe he doesn’t take those ruling bodies of music seriously enough. But who wants to follow rules in this topsy turvy world anyway? If he played the game it would be a sure bet that this stellar talent would have already been dubbed the David Bowie of Down Under by now. He is a rare and refreshing find in a sea of sameness, gloriously offbeat and unorthodox in his style and approach. It’s clear that Callinan has always been on the outside, and this may be the work that will enable him to Return to Center.

Return To Center will be released this Friday via Terrible Records.

Kirin J Callinan – The Whole Of The Moon