Tuesday, October 11, 2011

REVIEW: Crooked Fingers - Breaks in the Armor

The decision to release Breaks in the Armor, the latest album from Eric Bachman in his guise as Crooked Fingers may have been as simple as looking at a calendar and announcing "I think we'll be ready on October 11". But I'll at least indulge myself by considering the notion that October is the month of release because Breaks in the Armor is, at its heart, an autumn album. Like the season, there are storms and sun, winds and calm, gradual decay, and things of uncertain import hidden in shadows and beneath leaves. However, this album isn't comprised solely of nuance and sighs; it boasts palpable force, even muscularity, as evidenced by album opening track, "Typhoon":

Bachman always has had a gift for conveying complex emotions in economic phrases, and the songs on Breaks in the Armor are no exception. But it is the vigor of the underlying music that makes this album so welcome. The result is more exceptional because of its origins. Bachman told Spin Magazine that, burned out, he travelled to Taiwan in 2009 to take a break from music. At first he stayed with a friend, but then he secured a teaching job on a small island. About two weeks into the teaching gig, he bought a guitar and started working on the songs that became Breaks in the Armor.

The emotional depth of the album is revealed through the first four songs. After the dusty Americana grandeur of "Typhoon", we are treated to a rocking country-infused stomper in "Bad Blood". The third track, "The Hatchet", slows proceedings down for a somber tale of a failed relationship. Rather than leave us wallowing if the regret and recrimination, we slide into the fast-paced "The Counterfeiter", which many regard as the album's centerpiece. For my money, "Your Apocalypse" shouldn't be missed. While I don't have a studio version for you here, I provided a clip of a live version below (I apologize for the audio quality).

This is an album that emphasizes what should be important: Evocative half-stories that invite the listener to read between the lines; varied melodies and the quality performances. There is no room for superficial style or gimmicks.

"Your Apocalypse" (live)

Eric Bachman was joined by the talented Liz Durrett in recording Breaks In The Armor. The album is released today on Merge Records.

Album trailer:

Crooked Fingers - Breaks in the Armor (Album Trailer) from Merge Records on Vimeo.


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