VII is the seventh record from Blitzen Trapper and their first release for Vagrant Records. Its twelve tracks teem with vivid tales of longing, flight, desperation and redemption, all set in a sonic landscape at once familiar, but also strange and new, like a dream. Without a doubt the culmination of all the group’s best work, VII sounds a lot like America.
Blitzen Trapper was founded in Portland, Oregon in 2000 by a group of native Pacific Northwesterners, who played around town endlessly to skeleton crowds and gave away an impressive stream of garage recordings on CDR for years. Then came the Blitzen Trapper record in 2003, and Field Rexx in 2005. But it wasn’t until 2007’s self-releasedWild Mountain Nation made a big splash that they finally hit the road, setting the stage forFurr’s release the following year. Powered by its title track and by the G-funk-inflected “Black River Killer” that record became an unlikely hit and the group suddenly found itself on network television and in glossy magazines and astride colossal festival stages. So they released more music, toured the Western world incessantly, got to work with the likes of Wilco, Stephen Malkmus, Guided By Voices and Belle & Sebastian, and slowly became the band they’d always dreamed they would be. Blitzen Trapper are frontman and songwriter Eric Earley, Marty Marquis, Brian Adrian Koch, Michael Van Pelt and Erik Menteer.
VII opens with “Feel The Chill,” a southern adventure complete with a woman in her underwear, deer hunting, and of course drowning at the local bar. Earley takes us down a crooked bend so dark and gloomy you can smell the heat and feel the humidity oppress you. “Each song starts from a small place, a headwater like remembrance and then widens into a song. For instance, that old wreck of a shack buried in evergreen and murky darkness at the bend in the road up on Jackson Hill where we used to drink, never failed to give me a chill driving by in the old Impala for it’s implacable mystery,” Earley notes.
Tracks like “Thirsty Man” speak of love in a Dylan-esque fashion where Earley reveals “love like rain falls in the wasteland and slips thru the fingers – for love is a thing that cannot be held, only felt and released.” “Drive On Up” is a soulful, almost bluesy rendition of small town tales of quirkiness. “It seems you’re always driving on up to something,” Earley amuses, “into the mountains to see a girlfriend above the reservoir where she lives in a single wide with her mom and a cougar stalks us at fifty yards through the brush, she says to bang sticks but never look it in the eye.”
VII moves effortlessly from track to track, allowing Earley to paint the colorful pictures that play in our head while singing along. “…There are those songs I keep writing over and over again, Ever Loved Once with all its regrets and tragic lost love, Don’t be a Stranger its hopeful cousin but they all still point to the same worn out place in the heart of old E. Earley. And hey, we all have that place, that worn spot on the heart like the chew canister circle on the back pocket of blue jeans, or that one shred in the green felt of the table where you ground the stick in too hard… May these songs minister in ways mysterious and eternal, or at least maybe make you shake a hip.”