[ECLECTIC INDIE ROCK] Eric Bachmann has the kind of voice you wouldn't want your father or grade-school principal or basketball coach to have: brooding, imposing, wise and sure to make you feel small. It is, however, the kind of voice you want a band leader to have. Just as his fierce baritone added edginess and tension to the music of former band Archers of Loaf (remember them? Chapel Hill, N.C.-based indie-rock icons, the ones who released '93 masterpiece Icky Mettle?), it marks Crooked Fingers' oft-upbeat, folkier output with a characteristic scowl—which matches Bachmann's towering stature and dire lyrics quite nicely.

But Crooked Fingers isn't all doom and gloom (Bachmann saves that, primarily, for his criminally beautiful solo work). Thanks to contributors like vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Lara Meyerratken (El May), his Denver-based band crafts tunes that are at once sobering and hooky as hell. Bachmann, who's playing MFNW for the fifth consecutive time this year, lays down slabs of that seemingly impenetrable voice only to let his band cut them apart with horns, strings, lofty melodies, sassy female vocals and mariachi-influenced rhythms. The effect is such that husky statements like "I would change for you/ But, babe, that doesn't mean I'm gonna be a better man" sink your heart immediately, without holding it under for too long.

Rumor has it upcoming release Forfeit/Fortune starts out with some bold, '80s bar-rock sax, which one can only imagine embellishes that voice—a mix of carefully enunciated Neil Diamond-esque flair, Boss-like world-weariness and Frank Black eccentricity—as well, or better, than Bachmann's words illuminate his tales of failed love, bullfighters and, well, failed love.