Destroyer of the Void
From the opening notes of Destroyer of the Void, it’s clear Blitzen Trapper have added some new wrinkles to their rootsy sound. The title track offers a multi-part epic that blends Americana with glam-rock flourishes. Imagine The Band collaborating with Queen and you’re partway there. They develop this intriguing hybrid on the rocker “Love and Hate” and successfully mix mellotron and arch harmonies into the folk of “Laughing Lovers.” Unfortunately, they also serve up some of their most uninspired traditional tunes, sodden piano ballads and narrative duds like “The Man Who Would Speak True” that place Eric Earley’s trite lyrics front and center. The band’s gift for memorable melodies shines on songs like “The Tree,” but too often, the album’s fussy, crystalline production undercuts their woolly appeal. Five albums in, Blitzen Trapper are still figuring out their strengths. —Jeff Jackson
Experience is often the best teacher. And for songwriter Michael Hadreas (Perfume Genius), it’s a powerful source of inspiration. On his debut, Hadreas performs a series of confessional odes that often seem like tortured diary entries. Hadreas himself admits his youth was spent “running around doing drugs and being fucking insane.” Accompanied by piano, organ and layered synths, his memories of a life lived hard appear as intimate scenes. There are no lessons here, only wounded chords and vocals wavering on the edge of heartbreak. The subject matter frequently veers toward the uncomfortable. Whether mentioning a beloved teacher who committed suicide or a mother who treats her son “like a lover,” the material is never short of harrowing. Unfortunately, short running times and a lack of choruses leave many tracks feeling under-developed. —Michael Cimaomo
31 Hours Til What?
Though you want to root for his obvious sincerity and sense of genuine love for the art, Mission Man is not a good rapper. His rhymes have about as much natural rhythm and cadence as a penguin in bondage—which is a shame, because the tonal quality of his voice is really quite pleasing, and even sounds a bit like Frank Zappa’s. His lyrics are awkwardly phrased, and his style is closer to Sir Mixalot’s than anything else. His backing tracks sound like a band composed of Les Claypool sniffing a whole tube of glue on bass, Bender the Futurama robot on TR-505 drum machine, and the Revenge of the Nerds guy on Casio Keytar. To his credit, he cops to his awkward nerdiness in “Ugly Child,” admitting to a pizza face, Coke bottle glasses and a childhood admiration for Alex P. Keaton, but in the end, his earnestness just isn’t enough to overcome the inferior quality of the music. —Tom Sturm