One presumes that, 10 years into its career, Blitzen Trapper would've found its sense of direction by now. But on its seventh album, the band continues to experiment with its homespun folk sound. The chiming organ on the Dylanish "Thirsty Man" and knockabout "Shine On" ache a la the Band's "Chest Fever," while "Oregon Geography" finds frontman Eric Earley rattling off his vocals like a redneck Beck against a taut backdrop of ambient rain and fitful banjo. "Earth (Fever Called Love)" takes another turn, opting for slinky guitar, flute and synths that generate an almost hip-hop vibe, with undercurrents of dark R&B. Despite those deviations, much of VII sounds distinctly like the quirky, crunchy Americana most associate with Blitzen Trapper. The country-creased sashay of "Don't Be a Stranger" and the swelling harmonies of "Ever Loved Once" remain the best avenues for Earley's foggy vocals and narrative wanderlust. Even if it doesn't pave new ground, the latter song, in particular, is arguably some of his finest work.
HEAR IT: VII comes out Tuesday, Oct. 1, on Vagrant Records.