Eric Earley’s Blitzen Trapper’s latest is a delightful confection that feels lighter than its source stimuli may suggest (the Tibetan Book of the Dead for one). It is an album chock full of earworms that have their origins in weird tunings or off-piste lyricism. There is a sense of XTC or Wilco circa ‘Summerteeth’ and not a small hint of early post Beatles McCartney. And this is sometimes mixed with a spoon that may say Prog on the side!
‘Bardos Light ( Ouija, Ouija)‘ is a perfect example; driven by a delicate guitar shape with simple yet affecting harmonies Earley spins his story as the tune slowly breaks and reforms around a cut glass solo and a fade that drifts off into Soft Machine territory. As the album progresses each tune unfolds in this beguiling way. There is no shouting or screaming here, it is a delicate and intricate journey. The songcraft employed within each carefully constructed song belies the simplicity of the final sound. Furthermore there is a very clear sense of the whole although each song is identifiable as a separate entity; as such it is difficult to select highlights as it is the overall effect of the album that grips – a gentle swooning perhaps?
If pushed the title track is certainly up there with its gentle country swing and delightful tack piano sound supporting the vocal melody as Earley leads the band with his understated vocals ably supported by steel guitar and a gorgeous chorus. The song eventually folds in on itself into a beautiful groove which even sees a saxophone appearing in the mix.
This is an album for repeated listens and hidden depths. Dive in, the water’s fine.