And lo, the Portland conveyor belt of a music scene continued to churn out names to be seen to be dropping: The Decemberists, M Ward, Mus�e M�canique. But Blitzen Trapper are no new fangled next-big-thing; they released their first LP in 2003, and this, Destroyer Of The Void, is their fifth in total.
So how does 2010 find the alt-folk, Pavement-esque, Fleet Foxes-supporting six-piece? Well, short answer, it doesn’t: this is an album that wears its time-honoured influences on its sleeve… and then proceeds to make that sleeve its refuge, forsaking the 21st Century in favour of ’70s-coloured AOR in an effort that is progressive because it is retrospective. It’s a smart trick, and the band execute it stylishly.
Emboldened by the successes of their own past – not everyone reaches their fifth album, y’know – Blitzen Trapper embark on Destroyer’s journey with an intrepid first step: the title and opening track amounts to six minutes of ELO-style progressions and close harmonies that are sure to turn some on and others away. Influences aside though, the songwriting is as assured and deft as could be wished for.
Track two, Laughing Lover, continues the launch into the sort of palatable prog The Hoosiers diluted so adroitly; yet here the formula is far purer, and Laughing Lover sounds like a refugee from the Caravan-led Canterbury scene, all distinct sectioning, curious lyrical quirks and fretplay that impresses without overindulging.
Album highlight Below The Hurricane, similarly, trades on a blueprint of complex folk pickery that holds its forebears in reverence, gradually unveiling a beautiful, Eagles-esque second half that winds its way into the ears with a dusty progression, sombre harmonica and delicate harmonies.
By now the evidence is mounting that Blitzen Trapper frontman and creative force Eric Earley is the real deal: The Man Who Would Speak True exhibits a touching cautionary tale through expertly-penned prose and a subtle sense of drama; Heaven And Earth reveals itself as a timeless, poignant piano ballad, a track that resonates strongly long after its final moments pass.
And the momentum carries through: Dragon’s Song peddles an irresistible brand of acoustic psychedelia; The Tree boasts a folk duet so authentic it could conceivably date back decades; Sadie draws proceedings to a close with an effort that, while slightly unassuming next to its trackmates, is entirely fitting with its resolute refrains, layered harmonies and uncluttered constitution.
It would seem that Destroyer Of The Void is an album that manages to both impress initially and continue to reveal virtues well into repeat spins; a trick that ensures the satisfaction of all manner of listeners, and one that reflects Blitzen Trapper’s growing reputation as something of a must-hear. Long may they soundtrack our increasingly sun-kissed summer days.