taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of the moment

CROOKED FINGERS — Breaks In the Armor

It’s been made pretty clear over the last 11 years that Eric Bachmann isn’t a fan of formula. After wildly varying releases after the demise of Archers of Loaf, the band’s front man made some questionable choices on Forfeit/Fortune, the last album of longtime side project Crooked Fingers. After breaking briefly from Merge Records for that release, one sunk by the clash of huge and fragile sounds, Bachmann is back with Merge and back on a reasonably even keel for Crooked Fingers’ sixth release Breaks In the Armor. It’s an album that’s drawn from the minor-key slacker sounds of Chapel Hill ’90s indie rock and his own folk leanings alike, but Breaks In the Armor feels most like Bachmann getting back to being a mercurial, roll-of-the-dice solo songwriter.

One minute he broods like a possessed Southern blues man (“Black Candles”) and the next his is a shrill, quivering David Byrne facsimile (“Went to the City”). The instrumentations follow suite. “War Horses” is propelled by heavily reverbed, slight drumbeats and morose piano strokes as meandering guitar builds over top. “The Hatchet” opens with an atonal bed of synths that dissolve into a toothless acoustic melody accompanying Bachmann’s cold, nervous narrative. It’s not a very sinuous album by any means, but Bachmann’s weird lyrical charm overcomes any awkwardness in the pacing. “Went to see my fortune teller/ went to see which way the winds were blowing/ said you’ll probably get the cancer/ said you’ll probably die alone,” he sings with a cool sense of assurance on “Bad Blood” before engaging the chorus, “It seems so far away.” The name Breaks In the Armor implies that a guy like Bachmann isn’t quite perfect, and neither is this album. It is, like its creator, pretty good however.