Blitzen Trapper – Furr

When you’re part of something like Blitzen Trapper, a band whose umbrella is under about ten different genres — all on just one song — it creates a certain expectation. And following the triumph that was last year’s sprawling, surprisingly cohesive, and outstanding Wild Mountain Nation, there were certainly great expectations for these Northwesterners. They signed onto Sub Pop, embarked on an imposing tour with Fleet Foxes and chose to take small breaks in between set dates to craft and create Furr.

The album begins with the pounding drums and guitars of “Sleepy Time in the Western World,” it’s a joyous and raucous start to the album and one that finds the band showcasing a much cleaner and polished sound. Make no doubt about it, this is still a Blitzen Trapper album but it definitely sounds a lot different.

The guitars are scaled back to reveal a tighter musicianship and although there are some breakaway sections, this is one accomplished sounding band. The synthesizers and atmospheric sounds on “Gold for Bread” recall Midnite Vultures-era Beck and the acoustic guitar ending is utterly sublime. A tremendous moment appears on “Love U” when Eric Earley literally shouts the opening lines and it tears into a menacing, torrid slamming of cymbals, rolling drum fills and Earley’s shouting screams. The song, somehow, turns into a melancholy, sad affair with organ and almost lulling vocals and it makes for a unique transition that only works because of the band that’s executing it.

A lot of the songs on the album rely on Earley’s strong songwriting chops and the band’s eclectic use of varying sounds and styles. “Black River Killer” is a smooth rock song with storytelling lyrics and a soul-tapping groove. It’s followed by a piano-driven ballad in “Not Your Lover,” a song portraying a ruined relationship that is nicely filled out with musical harmonica and only Earle’s vocals to carry it. Apparently the band was deeply influenced at the founding of an old, warped piano which they used to deliver some of the bare skeletons of songs. It’s easily felt on the aforementioned song and on the Elton John-esque sounds of “Echo/Always On/Ez Con.” These are styles that the band is attempting for the first time and they actually make them work.

Although the press release only mentions Wild Mountain Nation we mustn’t forget that Blitzen Trapper have been a great band for quite some time now — eight years and counting. It’s only obvious that comparisons between the two albums will be endless; and while there isn’t anything as blisteringly heavy as “Woof & Warp of the Quiet Giant’s Hem,” as gritty and grimy as “Miss Spiritual Tramp,” or even as trippy and psychedelic as “Hot Tip/Tough Cub,” there is still plenty to love on Furr.

A song like the title track possesses a killer chug and enough country swagger to make anyone tap their foot and “God + Suicide” is only more of the same great music. This is an album that will probably not attract more fans but it will surely retain many of the band’s long-time ones. Furr may not be as extensive as its predecessor but this feels like a solid progression for a band that is due for some recognition. And this proves that Blitzen Trapper will continue to grow and challenge themselves with each subsequent release.