Portland, OR-based Blitzen Trapper are set to release new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes on September 11th. The first track from the album, “Magical Thinking,” has also been unveiled.
Led by existential questions about life and death, Holy Smokes, Future Jokes finds frontman Eric Earley ruminating on the intermediate period between a person’s separate lives on earth, “and what it means to escape the cycle of birth and rebirth,” he explains.
Recorded at Long Play Recording in Portland, OR, Holy Smokes, Future Jokes takes the listener on a wild and dramatic journey through the Bardo, that transitional state between death and rebirth. With an inherent otherworldliness in the lyrics and imagery, the album’s ten songs take inspiration from several works, notably George Saunders’ 2017 Lincoln in the Bardo, which led to Bardo Thodol, more commonly known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
“I became obsessed with it, “Earley notes. “All the ideas contained in that book were speaking to me in a lot of different ways. The main theme that kept drawing me in when I was writing was what I call ‘cosmic humility,’ he adds. “It’s the idea that humanity is not the center of the universe or even the center of our own universe here on earth. We’re not the most important thing.”
Throughout Holy Smokes, Future Jokes, he addresses these concepts by homing in on deeply personal and profoundly affecting stories from the album’s hypnotic fingerpicked opener, “Baptismal,” which recounts an oft-told tale from high school days about a drunk driving accident, to the briskly-strummed closer “Hazy Morning” that focuses on mental health in the all-too-common American tragedy of school shootings.
In between the album’s powerful bookends, Earley takes a lighter touch with the indie-roots “Masonic Temple Microdose #1,” which sees a group of friends break into the titular temple to party while “Dead Billie Jean” imagines the title character from the Michael Jackson classic committing suicide, ascending to the Bardo, and getting high with Abraham Lincoln, Jim Morrison, and the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones.
Produced and engineered by Raymond Richards, who also contributes upright bass/keys/pedal steel, Blitzen Trapper were joined in-studio by Michael Blake (keys), Luke Price (fiddle), Ben Latimer (saxophone), Heather Woods Broderick (backing vocals), and Haley Johnsen (backing vocals).
Holy Smokes, Future Jokes tracklisting:
- Bardo’s Light (Ouija, Ouija)
- Don’t Let Me Run
- Magical Thinking
- Masonic Temple Microdose #1
- Holy Smokes Future Jokes
- Sons and Unwed Mothers
- Dead Billie Jean
- Hazy Morning