Crooked Fingers – Breaks in the Armor

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Our knowledge of Eric Bachmann predominantly resides in his roll as the main man in Archers of Loaf, but as years have gone by, Eric’s crafted some beautiful records.  Some have been under his own name, but most have come via the Crooked Fingers moniker, and Breaks in the Armor might just be his best non-AoL record yet.

Bachmann has this greatly affecting voice, and it’s this voice that carries album opener, “Typhoon.”  Musically, the song has this dark trickling guitar line, which fits the vocal nicely, as Eric’s voice has this deep wooded quality to it.  By the time we move into the second track, “Bad Blood,” you get two things that Breaks in the Armor is really all about, Backmann’s storytelling, and this sort of alt-country, middling between mellow rocker and Americana.

But, while those elements definitely earn their keep throughout the entirety of this record, there are quieter moments for which I’ve always appreciated Eric’s solo work, especially with Crooked Fingers.  “The Hatchet” is little more than a slow-picked ballad, with Bachmann doing his best to yank at your emotions through the power of his voice.  It’s similar to Merge Records label-mate Richard Buckner, using little more than the vocal to evoke maximum emotion. “Heavy Hours” also lives in this same vein, although you’ll find a bit more of a lush arrangement helping to carry the harmony along, not to mention the help of Liz Durrett on backing duties. For some reason, this track sounds a whole lot like Bill Callahan, not that there’s really any need for comparisons, since Mr. B has been around for so long–perhaps it should go the other way!  If you’re not sure which side to take, listen to “Our New Favorite,” the album closer, before you make up your own mind.

One of the best things on Breaks in the Armor, aside from the emotional storytelling, are those semi-rockers that pop up here and there. “The Counterfeiter” is a gem of a track, and it picks up a rolling movement from the get-go.  In the end, Eric belts his way in and out of the chorus, but in doing so with Durrett (again) he maximizes the song’s emotive quality.  He even has a bit of fun, throwing a little “whoo” in the middle of the track.  These little flourishes have been present throughout the Crooked Fingers period, but it’s the lush arrangements that accompany songs like “Your Apocalypse” that really show the growth  in Bachmann’s writing and recording.

The release date of this record seems perfect, as fall begins to creep into our lives, bringing cooler weather and darker days. Breaks in the Armor is filled with introspective stories, allowing you to search on your own during those days when the rain keeps you inside.  For a man with such a rich musical history, Bachmann’s work with Crooked Fingers only seems to be improving with each continued release.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Crooked-Fingers-Typhoon.mp3]

Download: Crooked Fingers – Typhoon [MP3]

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