Detail from H. Lawrence Hoffman's cover illustration for Erle Stanley Gardner's The Case of the Lame Canary, 1943
One of my 2011 music highlights was seeing the reunited Archers of Loaf, so I was pretty excited to see that Eric Bachmann's post-Archers project, Crooked Fingers, had a new LP coming out. Luckily, I wasn't expecting much of the Archers' sound to bleed through because, apart from some of that spiky guitar sound on "Bad Blood", Breaks in the Armor is not a very rocking album. However, it doesn't have that homespun, organic feel of my favorite Crooked Fingers records (the self-titled debut and Red Devil Dawn) either. I'd compare it to the oft-forgotten second Crooked Fingers album, Bring on the Snakes, with songs in a solitary, downcast mood built on pulsing loops and rhythm tracks.
Which is not to say that Breaks in the Armor is a monotonous or depressing record - there's an introspective feel to it for sure, but the album's real somber tracks are spaced out nicely to avoid causing wrist-slitting impulses. Some of these tracks work (like the gorgeous "Heavy Hours") and some of them don't (like the soporific "The Hatchet"). But there are plenty of uptempo tracks to balance things out ("Your Apocalypse", "Typhoon", "Went to the City") and Liz Durrett's backing vocals provide a nice counterpoint to Bachmann's contemplative leads. A couple tracks have odd melodic turns that derail the album's momentum - the otherwise-lovely "The Counterfeiter" has a weirdly out-of-place chorus melody, for example - but it's one of the most solid offerings from Crooked Fingers in recent years.
"Typhoon" by Crooked Fingers