Blitzen Trapper

Blitzen Trapper

About

Blitzen Trapper signed to Sub Pop about three years ago, which means a lot of things, not the least among them being the fact that they are really good.  Sub Pop has never just signed anyone.  It’s gratifying, as a fan, to see this sort of progression.  It confirms some of my long standing thoughts about the band—namely that they exceed expectations in the world of folk music.  But it also means they’re maturing as a band, which is always fun to watch. 

My interest in Blitzen Trapper was solidified with Furr, their 2008 critically acclaimed release, which featured such hits as “God & Suicide”, “Furr” and “War On Machines.”  It’s a rambling album that invites repeated listens.  Eric Earley, who seems to channel Summerteeth era Jeff Tweedy at multiple points throughout the record, does an excellent job of leading the listener through magical narratives that seem only appropriately understood through the lens of folk.  For instance, on “Furr” we get an insider’s perspective on some of the mystique and appeal of naturalism—of answering the call of the unsettled,

Yeah, when I was only seventeen
I could hear the angels whispering
So I drove into the woods
And wandered aimlessly about 
Until I heard my mother shouting through the fog
It turned out to be the howling of a dog
Or a wolf, to be exact
The sound sent shivers down my back
But I was drawn into the pack and before long
They allowed me to join in and sing their song
So from the cliffs and highest hills
Yeah, we would gladly get our fill
Howling endlessly and shrilly at the dawn
And I lost the taste for judging right from wrong
For my flesh had turned to fur
Yeah, and my thoughts they surely were
Turned to instinct and obedience to God

And on “God & Suicide” Earley takes a jangly approach to some heavy topics,

I can live with god and with suicide
the same thing holds if I close my eyes
It's a truth so pure it can kill you dead
a taste of heaven mixed with hell inside of my head. 

One of the most interesting things about a band like Blitzen Trapper is how they differentiate themselves from the competition, of which there is a lot in the alt-americana-throwback world, or whatever you want to call it.  In a review of Furr, Rebecca Raber articulates this well when she says ““Echo/Always On/EZ Con” pulls their organic, earnest sound into strange territory, bleeding a "See The Sky About to Rain"-like piano weeper into a brief, burbling mess of tech sounds that evolve into a funky disco strut. It is those sorts of unexpected flourishes that keep the album crackling with excitement and separate Blitzen Trapper from the rest of the bands that are trying their hands at a similar throwback sound.” 

More of the same mastery is found on the band’s latest LP American Goldwing. Mission Moon”, which verges on prog rock, sees the group exploring new territory both sonically and stylistically.  Either way, via folk or on the outskirts of the genre, Blitzen Trapper are innovators anybody should be eager to see live. 

- John Scherer

Links

Calvin Performances

  • with Dawes and Belle Brigade
    Wed, Nov 2; 8pm, CFAC
    $20 public; $5 w/ Calvin ID