Album Reviews

Crooked Fingers – Breaks in the Armor

on October 13, 2011, 7:59am
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Eric Bachmann has been many things throughout his varied career. The former Archers of Loaf frontman was a pioneer of ’90s slacker alt-rock. All he ever wanted was to be your spine. In 1998, he turned Nebraska-era Springsteen-inspired folk singer. Now, six albums deep into his folk excursion, Bachmann is as determined and self-assured as he’s ever been.

Breaks in the Armor is easily the most listenable and fully realized Crooked Fingers release to date. This is a set of dynamic, well paced, and beautifully rendered rock music. And where Bachmann’s affectedly twangy voice could sometimes grow tiresome and irritably self-conscious on early CF releases, here he has found the exact pocket where his down-home drawl can mingle comfortably with the poppiest of his alt-rock tendencies.

Bachmann’s voice is virtuosic here, soaring high above gorgeous, finger-picked acoustic guitar, screeching electrics, weighty piano, vital percussion, bells, chimes, static, muffled audio samples, and lovely female backing harmonies. He molds his reedy pipes into some of his most indelible and heartfelt melodies to date. Try to listen to a song like “The Counterfeiter” or “War Horses” without wanting to hear Bachmann sing those choruses just one more time. The hooks catch like fire and then have you trudging through their ashes.

Breaks in the Armor finds Bachmann still rooted in Springsteen’s more solemn folk leanings, but now with a bit of Nick Cave’s baroque edge, a little more of a pulse, and much, much better flow. If nothing else, the record has some of the most impeccable transitions to be seen on any record this year. Seriously. Whoever sequenced this thing deserves a Grammy award invented up on the sole basis of this record (see: “Went to the City” into “Your Apocalypse”). These compact morsels of art-folk grandeur set the scene perfectly for one another. They’ll keep you company for a while, too.

Essential Tracks: “The Counterfeiter”, “War Horses”, “Your Apocalypse”

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