Blitzen Trapper does country in best way

Blitzen Trapper
4 out of 5 stars

Blitzen Trapper’s “Furr” displays a band in control of its influences. But that’s not to say the Portland collective has simply picked a genre clean on their fourth record (and first for Sub Pop). “Furr” is a homey, country-fried affair that calls to mind Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams, The Byrds and Neil Young in all the right ways.

The Dylan-esque vocals of frontman Eric Earley are an immediate focal point, as his weathered crooning slings jaunty hooks, telling stories of pistols, the Rio Grande and dogwood trees. Despite such credentials and a penchant for wearing plaid, these guys owe just as much to folk as they do to alt-country. The weary storytelling on tracks like “Black River Killer” is clear evidence.

“Furr” derives much of its charm from the fact that it never wears out its welcome. Most of the tracks clock in at less than three minutes, and the big, rustic hooks are seldom overdone. Given the band’s blueprint, it would have been easy to form a quick dependency on harmonica or steel guitar, but fortunately, this never happens.

The flow is disrupted by several mundane tracks toward the two-thirds mark, with the nadir occurring on “Love U’s” overwrought vocals over a vacuous arrangement. As if on cue, the amiable “War on Machines” swoops to the rescue on the next track, pointing the record toward a very likable conclusion.

Key Tracks: “Sleepytime in the Western World,” “Gold for Bread,” “Fire & Fast Bullets”

Miniature Tigers
“Tell It to the Volcano”
3.5 out of 5 stars

After releasing two solid EPs last year, Miniature Tigers have put together their debut full-length album, and it is a pleasant collection of peppy tracks.

The band writes innocent love songs with the mentality of a ’90s power-pop group. The songs stay short and light, and the lyrics are both clever and sweet, making them pretty difficult to dislike.

Unfortunately, the album has a lot of filler tracks. Too many middling songs dilute the record to recommend it as a whole. The best songs, however, are some of the best from a new group within the genre. It is clear Miniature Tigers have a lot of potential.

While it’s clear the band knows how to write a good song, they did not always do their songs justice in the studio. Some of the tracks on “Tell It to the Volcano,” namely “The Wolf,” could have been timeless, indie-pop gems had they only been given more energy and punch.

Still, it’s hard to complain about a solid debut like this. Keep an eye out for more from Miniature Tigers.

Key Tracks: “Cannibal Queen,” “The Wolf”