Like a lot of the bands scraping by on the indie-rock circuit, where cool is currency, Blitzen Trapper spent its first few albums exploring the wilder, woollier regions of its psych-drenched skill set. The music wasn’t always listenable, but man, it was hip.
But then Blitzen Trapper grew up. The result was 2008’s nearly perfect Furr. The reasons for the album’s brilliance were simple: songwriter Eric Earley ditched style for substance, openly embracing a love for gently strummed songs, sunny pop hooks, and vivid storytelling. The band wasn’t quite as trendy as Explode into Colors, Stumptown’s favorite boundary-pushing outfit, but damn if it wasn’t a whole lot better.
Despite its title—and a sprawling, bipolar opening track—Destroyer of the Void is not a return to the cosmic cowboy days. As a whole, it’s even more stripped down than Furr. Songs like “Love and Hate,” “Heaven and Earth,” and “Evening Star” come on easy—they’re beautiful, plaintive slow-rollers content to ride a groove or weave a beguiling tale instead of working themselves into a frenzy. And once again, whether playing the part of romantic, outlaw, or sailor, Earley proves himself to be one of the best songwriters in Portland.
If Destroyer of the Void isn’t quite as excellent as Furr, it’s at least more consistent, revealing hidden bits and pieces with each listen. And it’s proof that even for indie rock bands, growing up doesn’t have to mean losing your cool.