well, what bands to listen to? great question. most of what i mentioning have little connection with califone, sound or otherwise. but here goes-
16 horsepower- awesome band, rarely tours the US. very rustic, the singers like some crazy prophet.
red house painters- yea, there popular, but i discovered them while getting some red red meat, and really got into them.
three mile pilot
the silver jews
retsin- a great girl band, the first song i heard, duck out, is awesome.
magnetic fields, neutral milk hotel, any other merge bands, also check out saddle creek 50, a great sampler of all the bands on the label.
if u want to hear a good local band, check out my friend jons band oris, at http://www.orismusic.com
. cant really think of any more bands at the moment. maybe ill post more later...