Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
Our New Favorite
Review of Crooked Fingers’ Breaks In The Armor
Justin EvansAfter a prolific career of twenty years, an artist can be forgiven for choosing to settle into some manner of creative comfort zone or perhaps repeating themselves. And while Eric Bachmann isn’t necessarily continuing to break new artistic ground, he’s covered enough terrain over the years that even revisiting past efforts remains a wonderfully unpredictable exercise.
Reach back to Archers Of Loaf for some ragged and jagged proto-indie rock, early Crooked Fingers or his solo work for stark yet rich folk-rooted singer-songwriter fare, later Crooked Fingers for gorgeous Spanish-inflected rock or polarizing studio experimentation. He hasn’t revisited the instrumental sound-sculpting of the Barry Black project but give him time. But not right now as he’s got more balls in the air now than perhaps he ever has, simultaneously looking back with a much-heralded Archers reunion and album reissue series and forwards with a new Crooked Fingers album – Breaks In The Armor – out next Tuesday.
Toronto was treated to a preview of the latest incarnation of Crooked Fingers when Bachmann stopped by while shepherding Archers gear between cities in July and, given that they were just a two-piece consisting of himself and Liz Durrett, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect that Armor would be a stripped-down affair and a hard turn from the unfairly panned Forfeit/Fortune. And if that were the case, it’d have been fine – few do stripped down as affectingly as Bachmann – but Armor is a surprisingly fleshed-out record that sounds less like it’s revisiting past records than pulling inspiration from all of them simultaneously.
If you had to choose one reference point in the Bachmann oeuvre, Armor would be most reminiscent of Red Devil Dawn, which marked the transition of Crooked Fingers as pseudonym for a mostly-solo act to a full band project but rather than sounding at all transitional, it sounds arguably like the most representative Crooked Fingers record yet. Drum machines keep time on the simpler numbers, as on opener “Typhoon”, but when live rhythm is needed to allow a song like “The Counterfeiter” to really soar, the drums are there. And that little atonal guitar skronk that opens “Bad Blood”? Little bit of Archers right there, I’d say.
Bachmann has consistently flown under the radar of popular acclaim and finally seems to be receiving his critical (and commercial) due thanks to the Archers Of Loaf reunion, but one hopes that it doesn’t overshadow the fact that he’s still putting out excellent new music. Someday, Eric Bachmann will be properly recognized as being one of the great American songwriters of the last twenty years and Breaks In The Armor will be another strong argument why. I won’t go so far as to say that’s the best Crooked Fingers record to date – there is a place in my heart from which Dignity & Shame will never be dislodged – but it’s certainly one of the strongest and most consistently satisfying.
Spin talks to Bachmann about making the new record following a sabbatical from music to teach English in Taiwan and is also offering a stream of the whole thing while The AV Club has a video performance of “Your Apocalypse” filmed on a Chicago rooftop. Their Fall tour in support of the record kicks off later this month and hits The Drake Underground in Toronto on November 8.
Filter makes an argument for Bachmann’s greatness via his Archers Of Loaf work. And did anyone see Archer last week? “Archers Of Loaf-crosse”? Eh? EH? What do you mean you don’t watch Archer what the hell is wrong with you.
California’s High Places have announced a date at The Garrison on November 14 in support of their new record Original Colors, out Tuesday. Tickets are $11.50 in advance. Eater has an interview with the duo about, well, eating.
Brooklyners White Rabbits have been pretty quiet since the success of 2009’s It’s Frightening. But there are signs they’re getting ready to release something new – such as their scheduling a date at The Horseshoe for November 30, tickets $15.
I’m not sure what is more confounding – the people getting worked up about Lana del Rey or the people getting worked up about the people getting worked up about her. But she of the enormous hype, controversial backstory, contentious lips and just-okay-but-hardly-spectacular two songs is bringing her show to Toronto’s Mod Club on November 30, tickets $12.50 and on sale at 10AM Friday. For a taste of the buzz, check out the interviews with her at The Quietus, The State, GQ, New York Magazine and Pitchfork (who also have a think piece about her divisiveness) and to let the music (and visuals) speak for themselves, her entire recorded output in video form.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – who know a thing or two about both edges of the hype machine – are hoping you call their third album Hysterical a comeback and go see them when they play The Opera House on December 9. That one will cost you $20.50 in advance.
The Sun has an extensive interview and Exclaim a short one with Ryan Adams, whose new record Ashes & Fire is out on Tuesday. The Alternate Side also has an interview as well as a session. Adams is at The Winter Garden Theatre on December 10.
eMusic has posted the results of their Twitter-powered interview with Mates Of State, The Baltimore Sun publishes the results of a stock questionnaire and The Charlotte Observer settles for a simple conversation.