With all the (justified) excitement over the Archers Of Loaf reunion tour, it’d be a shame to forget that Archers frontman Eric Bachmann has been making outstanding music since that band broke up, primarily with his makeshift outfit Crooked Fingers. Breaks In The Armor, Crooked Fingers’ sixth LP, even contains a song that sounds a little Archers-y: “Bad Blood” kicks off with a discordant guitar run that could easily be a leftover from Vee Vee before settling into what’s been Bachmann’s preferred musical mode for the past decade, mixing gruff, saloon-ready rock with a few dollops of artful beauty.
Overall, Breaks In The Armor goes in more for the beauty than the gruff. These are some of the most melodious songs Bachmann has recorded, verging on the poppy with the bouncy “The Counterfeiter” and angling toward the aspirational with the pounding, rising “Went To The City.” Only the recording holds them back a little. Though Breaks In The Armor features a range of instrumentation—primarily piano and softly twangy electric guitar, along with background vocals from Liz Durrett—the songs still have a demo-ish quality, almost like they’re waiting for one or two more layers to be finished. But that sketchy approach works in Crooked Fingers’ favor too, as on “Heavy Hours,” which has the hushed, handmade sound of The Velvet Underground’s third album. Surfaces aside, the songs on Breaks In The Armor are impassioned and crafty—right in line with what Bachmann has been up to for decades now.