(Self-released, CD, digital download)
It feels like we’ve been predicting breakout success for Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck for years. But for whatever reason — a fickle listening public, cosmic injustice, dubstep — those prognostications have yet to materialize. This paper and others went all in on the band’s 2010 full-length, Bottom of the Sky, as the record that would propel them to new heights. But we were wrong. The Vermont-based roots-rock band remains the province of dedicated local Americana fans but few listeners beyond New England.
At the risk of repeating ourselves, we’re doubling down on Thayer’s latest, Eden, as the album that will finally push the Vermont-based songwriter and his band into a wider spotlight. But not for the reasons we used to cite.
On his previous two efforts with Trainwreck and numerous earlier records — whether solo or with groups such as the Benders or Elbow — we marveled at Thayer’s unique distillation of Americana and alt-country convention into something modern and new. A gifted banjo player, front man and songwriter, Thayer always seemed to push just the right buttons. With Eden, he continues that provocative bent, pushing his music into even more progressive territory. Bright, catchy and densely orchestrated, it’s a sound that should travel well on the festival circuit. But it may also alienate longtime fans who prefer their jams a little less, well, jammy.
Invoking the “J” word — a four-letter word, in certain circles — is not to say Eden suffers some egregious overabundance of indulgent musical wankery. On the contrary, even at their headiest, Thayer and Trainwreck present well-crafted flights of fancy rooted in typically potent songwriting. Laced with swirling organ, soaring horns and no shortage of effects-heavy electric banjo, the record’s aesthetic is closer to latter-day Allman Brothers or even, in moments, Widespread Panic than the dusty, Heartbreakers-esque tone of the band’s earlier albums. It’s simply a new direction, and one that could attract legions of new fans.
Those expecting more of the same from Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck are in for a surprise in Eden. But those with open minds and ears may be surprised by how much they’ll enjoy it.
Eden by Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck is available on Tuesday, March 5, at bowthayer.com.