Blitzen Trapper

Destroyer of the Void

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Blitzen Trapper's fifth full-length album opens with the Portland, Oregon-based sextet's most challenging song to date, a sprawling, six-minute, prog rock epic that will draw forth from the lips of critics names like Queen, Bowie, ELO, Tull, and the Beatles, and like its heavily sequined, 2010 sister/brother "Flash Delirium" by MGMT, it forgets that big fish require big hooks to land. Technically impressive, immaculately arranged and performed, "Destroyer of the Void" removes the kitchen sink from the equation early in the record, which helps pave the way for Destroyer of the Void, the album, to unfold, and while there's nothing here to match the instant gratification of songs like "God + Suicide" and the lovely title track from 2008's Furr, there's enough meat on these bones to suggest that the band hasn't lost its knack for crafting spiritually charged, enigmatic woodcuts of 21st century Americana. Frontman Eric Earley's obvious love of the Beach Boys, Gram Parsons, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young hangs like a fog over the Void, and his reliance on redemptive, outlaw, and biblical imagery often feels like Nick Cave and 16 Horsepower without the torrential brimstone. Album highlights arrive in the form of murder ballads ("The Man Who Would Speak True"), lush desert hymns ("Heaven and Earth"), and the Doors-inspired highway rockers ("Dragon's Song"), all of which feel lived in and appropriately sepia-toned. Genre studies like the Nilsson-esque "Lover Leave Me Drowning" and "The Tree," the latter a simple, sweetly sung duet with fellow West Coast folkie Alela Diane that wouldn't have sounded out of place in Christopher Guest's '60s folk parody/tribute A Mighty Wind, are less effective, but like everything on this wildly imperfect collection, they feel undeniably genuine in their execution.

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