Smile Politely

Blitzen Trapper storms onto the prairie

bt1It seems that all of the new previously unknown “great” acts that turned known quickly via Pitchfork reviews have one thing in common these days: Sub Pop. While this statement is obviously trite hyperbole, there is an ounce of truth to every exaggeration. 

Let’s just name a few shall we: Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses, Vetiver and the list could continue. This OG Seattle label has issued forth with revelatory sounds from the inception of the early 90’s “Seattle Sound” right up through to the jangling atmospheric indie rock of Modest Mouse and the Shins. While they are no longer a completely “independent” label, Sup Pop continues to surprise and sift through the rubble of pedestrian indie rock bands.

One of these previously unknowns that has risen from the ashes in the past year is Portland’s own Blitzen Trapper. An unexpected revelation with this group came to me via a 107.1 alarm clock rising at 7 a.m. one morning. The title track to their 2008 Sub Pop release, Furr, hinted at many things new and quite a few things old; but to pass them off as a mere crooning version of Bright Eyes-refined folk rock, I needed closer inspection.  

bt2While the group’s breakthrough experimental country-folk rock album Wild Mountain Nation showcased their lo-fi work ethic with immense leaps and bounds stylistically, 2008’s Furr is almost a full circle in the refinement of their sound.  The title track off their fourth album only hints at the folk/country underbelly while alluding to vast leaps in the dynamics of the album. Starting from the late 70’s Beatlesesque opener “Sleepy Time in the Western World” to songs like the “Black River Killer” (also the title of a new EP featuring previously unreleased material), which employs the best Dylan storytelling tendencies. 

The song order has many twists and turns that always have the listener guessing and on edge.  A standout song on the album has to be the eerily evoking Neil Young “Not Your Lover,” which transitions into the abrasive garage rock shoegazer number “Love U.” Blitzen Trapper can make you feel all their influences, but what you hear in the end is surprisingly and charmingly original.

I have heard nothing but positive things about their live show. The translation of any great record into real life, for me, has always been about the energy and amount of fun the band is having on stage.  I can only imagine this genre-jumping sextet keeps things interesting. 

They will be joined by their friends and fellow Portland darlings the Shaky Hands. Fall ’09 is laden with great shows at the Canopy Club and this is sure to be one of the highlights. 

Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show at 10 p.m. The cover is $10 in advance, $13 at the door, but will be worth every penny.  

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