In a July interview with Pitchfork, Bill Callahan goes on at length about the reasons he decided to start performing under his own name rather than Smog, the handle he'd used throughout his recording career. He speaks about a "transformation of some sort, an upheaval" — one he decided to mark by abandoning the appellation in which he sheathed himself in favor of one that represented his undisguised self. Given this backdrop, Woke on a Whaleheart, his new disc, may strike some observers as anti-climactic, since it's not an enormous departure from the Smog approach: His deadpan monotone hasn't jumped any octaves. Still, a closer listen reveals a cleaner sound than Callahan's early lo-fi releases or even his more sonically sophisticated outings of recent years. In addition, there are moments when he actually seems to be having fun, including his declaration that "They must have flown!" in the merrily martial "Footprints." Callahan hasn't lost the qualities that made him a memorable performer in the first place. But in subtle ways, the Smog has lifted.