Thursday, September 25, 2008

Review: Blitzen Trapper - Furr (* * * *)

Disclaimer: I LOVE late sixties/early seventies folk rock music. And when it comes to bands that emulate that classic sound well, it becomes difficult for me to resist. So it should come as no surprise that I am really digging the latest effort by Oregon-based indie band Blitzen Trapper. Full of acoustic guitars, pounding piano, and old-school vocal harmonies, Furr plays something like ablast from the past, and is a more consistent and enjoyable album than the band's 2007 release Wild Mountain Nation.

While Blitzen Trapper were previously concerned with exploring every aspect of their favorite genres or perhaps seeking to create a new one, Furr finds the band attempting to narrow down their past influences to find a sound to call their own. The eclecticism is still there, but slightly muted, giving the album diversity with fewer head-spinning stylistic transitions. In fact, the best moments are those that embrace a more relaxed folk style. "Furr," the story of a boy becoming a wolf and "Black River Killer," a truly creepy song about a spiritually tormented murderer, are two simple, quirky gems that rely on melody and writing rather than pushing the experimental envelope.

Elsewhere on the album Blitzen Trapper gets a little groovy ("Saturday Nite"), twangy ("Stolen Shoes & a Rifle"), and even make time for a ballad ("Not Your Lover'). It all works better than one would expect, mostly thanks to front man Eric Earley's ability to make the whole project seem effortless. Only on the atrocious "Love U" does the band take things too far, throwing melody and taste right out the window. It's a confusing misstep in an otherwise strong album, but I suppose they just had to get it out of their system.

To say that Blitzen Trapper is not at least a little derivative is probably giving the band more credit than they're due. Neil Young, James Taylor and a dozen other influences spring to mind as the album progresses, but Furr combines them with the band's own kooky style, resulting in a fun and engaging listen.

Favorite Tracks: "Furr," "God & Suicide," "Black River Killer"

You still have a few days to catch the full album at