We’re fans here at AUK of Portland, OR-based “competent” Blitzen Trapper (that’s what it says on their Twitter feed) and they’ve announced they will be making their Yep Roc Records debut with the release of new album ‘Holy Smokes Future Jokes’ on September 11. You can hear the first track from it, ‘Magical Thinking’ below. Led by existential questions about life and death, the new album finds frontman Eric Earley ruminating on the intermediate period between a person’s separate lives on earth, “and what it means to escape the cycle of birth and rebirth.”
Recorded at Long Play Recording in Portland, OR, the album is described as taking “the listener on a wild and dramatic journey through the Bardo, that transitional state between death and rebirth. With an inherent otherworldliness in the lyrics and imagery,” the album’s ten songs take inspiration from several works, notably George Saunders’ 2017 Lincoln in the Bardo, which led to Bardo Thodol, more commonly known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
“I became obsessed with it, “Earley notes. “All the ideas contained in that book were speaking to me in a lot of different ways. The main theme that kept drawing me in when I was writing was what I call ‘cosmic humility,’ he adds. “It’s the idea that humanity is not the center of the universe or even the center of our own universe here on earth. We’re not the most important thing.”
Throughout the album, he addresses these concepts by homing in on some personal and affecting stories from the album’s hypnotic fingerpicked opener ‘Baptismal’ which recounts an oft-told tale from high school days about a drunk driving accident, to the briskly-strummed closer ‘Hazy Morning’ that focuses on mental health in the all-too-common American tragedy of school shootings.
In between the album’s bookends, Earley takes a lighter touch with the indie-roots ‘Masonic Temple Microdose #1’ which sees a group of friends break into the titular temple to party while ‘Dead Billie Jean’ imagines the title character from the Michael Jackson classic committing suicide, ascending to the Bardo, and getting high with Abraham Lincoln, Jim Morrison, and the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones.
Produced and engineered by Raymond Richards, who also contributes upright bass/keys/pedal steel, Blitzen Trapper were joined in-studio by Michael Blake (keys), Luke Price (fiddle), Ben Latimer (saxophone), Heather Woods Broderick (backing vocals), and Haley Johnsen (backing vocals).
‘Holy Smokes, Future Jokes’ Tracklisting:
2. Bardo’s Light (Ouija, Ouija)
3. Don’t Let Me Run
4. Magical Thinking
5. Masonic Temple Microdose #1
7. Holy Smokes Future Jokes
8. Sons and Unwed Mothers
9. Dead Billie Jean
10. Hazy Morning
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