Eric Bachmann: Eric Bachmann

Eric Bachmann continues to age gracefully without sacrificing his youthful essence.

Eric Bachmann

Eric Bachmann

Label: Merge
Release Date: 2016-03-25

Eric Bachmann wrote the single most memorable opening line of the '90s: "Stuck a pin in your backbone / Spoke it down from there / All I ever wanted was to be your spine." What followed was "Web in Front", just over two minutes of inexhaustible melodies and hooks that ultimately indemnified Archers of Loaf's status in the nascent stages of indie rock lore. Inadequately compared to Pavement, Archers of Loaf wrote songs in the key of noise and strange tunings, Archers of Loaf contrasted Pavement's smug, ironic swagger. They were relatable despite their funny name. What anchored the band most of all was Bachmann's recognizable guttural growl. Endearing, the band's songs buoyed at the surface of the sonic chaos.

Leaving his mark on indie rock in a subtle way, Bachmann went on to call his post-Loaf project, Crooked Fingers, which continued his melodically laden leanings. One of Merge Records oldest artists on its hall-of-fame list, Crooked Fingers fashioned itself different from its cult predecessor. In spite of the band's rotating lineup, what stood out was Bachmann's songwriting. A child-like innocence and youthful optimism remained. Imagine Peter Pan fronting one of the coolest musical outfits unconcerned with popularity and numbers of Instagram followers. Even in his 40s, he draws listeners in with the same earnestness and charm he exhibited in his 20s.

Eric Bachmann's eponymous album demonstrates the continued allure. Happily wearing an orange baseball jersey, wielding a baseball bat, and an ear-to-ear grin, the album cover resembles the album's overall tone of joy and reflection. Bachmann truly loves music, and he proudly wears his influences on his sleeves. The memorable Phil Spector doo-wop opening in "Mercy" stylistically differs from any of his previous projects. Other than his voice, what else remains familiar is his lyrics. The track instructs the person to whom it is penned that in spite of having friends and family from Alaska to Miami, people say crazy shit from time to time. Like families, being offended happens whether people seek it out or not.

Bachmann's best produced album to date holds fast to country music's golden age and its production. Piano-heavy ballads, "Masters of the Deal" and "Small Talk", contain the spirit of Gram Parson's songwriting and Randy Newman's ineffable wordplay. "Masters of the Deal" sounds eerily reminiscent to "Scenic Pasture's" unforgettable opening guitar riff, but aged and slowed to reflect Bachmann's current frame of mind. Heartfelt, the melody mirrors the haunting imagery of a relationship in demise: "So betrayed in a shell game / Where the jury all agree / All they leave are ghost/Attached to two I.V.'s." His doomed protagonist, Wanda Jean, exists to teach the importance of empathy even in the worst conditions.

Part-time pianist for Neko Case, Bachmann favors the black and whites over the guitar throughout the album. His songs resemble his contemporaries' immersion into Baroque arrangements. Working with Saddle Creek luminaries drawn to the country rock's relaxed arrangements, "Carolina" favors sing along harmonies and balanced instrumentation. Certainly, Bachmann's voice is out front, and it needs to be, but never at the expense of the song.

Block chords ring discreetly beneath one Bachmann's most fragile deliveries in his long, accomplished career, "Old Temptation". Lonely forces painful reflections that lead to even more painful resolutions, and when he sings "Took you time to recover / To never be the same", the song's speaker resigns himself to the loneliness of bad memories that haunt indefinitely. The album's melancholiest track leaves carefully reminds his fans of how he continues to master his craft without ever compromising his essence.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.