Like Beirut, Blitzen Trapper are yet another DIY indie blog sensation that self-release their music and seem to have a blatant disregard of categorization. On their latest effort, Wild Mountain Nation, this disregard is played out to dazzling effect: equal parts honky-tonk sway, lo-fi garage rock fuzz, retro-kitsch-synth bleeps and whistles, with a little front porch bluegrass thrown in for good measure. This is one album that goes all over the map but always ends up in the same blissful and rockin' good times locale that could only be Blitzen Trapper.
This Portland-based group of six guys, most of whom grew up together in the small nearby town of Salem, OR, is anchored by lead singer Eric Earley who started playing banjo at age six (his father is a bluegrass musician). The most apparent apparition of this background comes with "Wild Mtn. Jam," a one-minute hoedown set right in the middle of the album, led by banjo and mouth harp. It's really just an aside and a little anomaly, compared to the rest of the completely genre-defying tracks.
Take for instance the guitar and cowbell cacophony of the opening track "Devil's A-Go-Go" or the equally rockin' "Miss Spiritual Tramp," arguably the most Pavement-esque or early Beck-ish tunes, to whom the band has been compared. These fast romping rock ditties are catchy with a jilted rhythm and distorted blaring vocals. Nestle these up against the more countrified numbers that are tinged with 60s jangly pop moments, like "Wild Mountain Nation" and "Futures & Folly." These transitions don't come off as schizophrenic to this listener. Therein lies the success of Blitzen Trapper. Their songs are not throwbacks. Although individual tracks might fit a little more in one category or the other, I couldn't imagine these sounds being created by anyone else. • Katy Henriksen