Reviews:: Eric Bachmann To the Races

I know I already commented on Eric Bachmann’s new solo release, but over the last week I’ve listened to To the Races relentlessly. Revisiting the album is also an effort to push the mentality that bands shouldn’t be overlooked and forgotten after a few days (especially when the album hasn’t been released yet).

Eric’s story, as I wrote here, is a simple one. After a gaggle of releases for both Archers of Loaf and Crooked Fingers, Eric decided to explore his soul on a solo album. He lived in his touring van while he wrote songs for the record. This forced solitude themed his writing and the result is fantastic. Often times when successful front men entertain a solo project, the result is a mishmash of styles that leave fans wishing the rest of the band was involved. This is not the case with Eric’s effort.

The album starts with Man O’ War’s simple finger picked riff before Eric’s trademark voice jumps to the forefront. Unlike the work with Crooked Fingers, this track (an the whole album really) is a more stripped down, traditionally arranged effort. Simple, faint backing harmonies and a few piano notes are the only other sounds on the record. Echoing Eric’s falsetto, Miranda Brown voice helps support Eric’s journey. This is a reoccurring theme. Most of the songs are introspective, but in no way do they alienate the listeners. Eric invites us all to share in his self-exploration, and it’s this honesty that makes this record work so well.

Eric’s has always been able to write a simple guitar piece that suits his voice and emotion perfectly, and this holds true on the song, Carrboro Woman. Another hushed riff; the type of song you’d talk over in a coffee house without noticing you were missing an artist pour out his heart. A quiet optimism shines through this song, something that usually escapes these types of songs. There’s no reason to run from all your losing. It seems simple to say, but it will get better over time, no matter how bad it is right now.

After one listen, you might start to think the tracks sound similar, but after you start to digest the album, subtle changes like the bluesy riff he uses on Genie, Genie make the album that much stronger. The path he took to write this album wasn’t an easy one, so it wouldn’t be fair to make it easy for the listener either. This song is about a man trying to find hope in a lost situation. Instead of accepting defeat, Eric – like all of us - is looking for any reason to stay positive.

Perhaps one of the most ambitious songs is the simple instrumental duet that let’s Devotchka's Tom Hagerman steal the spotlight with his amazing violin skills. More like a music score than a pop song, this two minute tracks breaks apart the record, acting like an intermission. Eric keeps the energy up, with Liars and Thieves, before settling into the best song on the album. Little Bird is a beautiful song that uses the most instrumentation and layering on the album. Eric finally makes the jump to show what this journey is about. It’s a simple love song, but after hearing songs of optimism and hope, the sharp contrast of admitting that he wants to pick up and leave with her, fearing that if you leave I believe we’d just all wither and fade away. Cuz nothing here every changes it’s the same ole thing every day hits home harder than even he probably intended. The same can be said about the album.

MP3:: Carrboro Woman

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