Having seen Austin band Crooks this past weekend at White Horse made me realize that country is a genre that seems to allude ATH. Granted, it seems like talent in the genre is bleak and it’s even harder to seek out the quality when most labels we associate with don’t touch country. So it’s nice when we’re sent songs like this tune “The Way it Is” from Portland based act Denver (yeah that’s not confusing). Now this band with a city name is actually more of a supergroup featuring members of Blitzen Trapper and Alela Diane’s Wild Divine. What’s created by this hodge podge of Portland musicians is a slow honky tonk sound with alternating vocals not far from aforementioned locals Crooks. A full self-titled LP from the group is due out August 12th in all your favorite formats.
Download: Denver – The Way It Is [MP3]
ATH Favorite and Portland, OR’s own Blitzen Trapper are back with their latest from Sub-Pop; the ominously titled Destroyer of the Void. The task of following up 2008’s critically acclaimed Furr was no easy one. Following in such momentum of an impressive record and equally hyped tour however is easy with the laundry list of talents and influences which Blitzen Trapper wear proudly on their sleeve. The last time we spoke to the band during ACL in 2009, they told us they were going to highlight more piano and it quickly becomes apparent with their latest they held true to form.
From the first notes of the title track to the last not on ‘Sadie’, the record as a whole is very piano heavy utilizing once again strong song writing fundamentals from Eric Earley. ‘Destroyer of the Void’ (the song) shows in no uncertain terms the sampling of everything in their bag of tricks. These influences and genres include piano ballads, strong off-kilter harmonies, good old fashioned rock, a little country thrown in for good measure, and as always strong songwriting fundamentals. On the second track, ‘Laughing Lover’ the piano is again the focus and this time it is the catalyst for wonderful layering techniques that are quickly becoming the band’s new trademark sound. ‘Below the Hurricane’ and ‘The Man Who Would Speak True’ form a good 1-2 punch with slow intros building into a tempo that the band seem to thrive in, similar to that found on ‘Black River Killer” from Furr. Solid harmonica play starts in the former and continues through the latter creating wonderful flow and consistency. If Earley is good a one thing as heard in the release, it’s creating compelling stories.
From there, the group deals with duality on ‘Love and Hate’ and again on ‘Heaven and Earth’. The latter finally shows more of the heavy blues sound listeners grew used to on such releases as Wild Mountain Nation. This change in pace is short-lived however, with Earley back into piano ballad mode with the latter. The high point for this listener comes a little halfway through the album starting off with ‘Dragon’s Song’ and its bluesy, almost Shin’s worthy instrumentation, into a wonderful duet with Alela Diane on ‘The Tree’, and topping it off with ‘Evening Star’, perhaps the most lasting and single-worthy track on the entire release.
Overall, the album is much quieter and subdued than any previous release. That may not be the best thing to keep a relatively new and hungry fan-base appeased, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing either. It shows some growth into not relying too heavy on one idea and for Earley, shows the continuous drive for writing the perfect song. Though I continually refer back to Furr and Wild Mountain Nation in years past, only time will tell if this album holds the same staying power. On first taste, the momentum gained by the band following Furr is slowed a little by this release, but only sidelines it slightly. The strengths of Blitzen Trapper are growing and they do many things very well. This release definitely fills the void left by Furr, but Destroy? That may be a little presumptuous.
Just found a song by this band Headless Heroes over on LHB and immediately thought it needed to be on our site. The song appears on the album The Silence of Love which features nothing but unique and obscure cover songs. Band mastermind Eddie Bezalel handpicked some of his favorite musicians to play on the project and also tabbed incredible folk star Alela Diane to provide vocals. The combination of stellar musicianship and Alela’s vocals create something really beautiful. Check out “True Love Will Find You in the End” or stream the whole new album on the Headless Heroes website.
Download: Headless Heroes – True Love Will Find You In the End [MP3]