Milton Mapes

The Blacklight Trap (Undertow)

SXSW Records

Milton Mapes

The Blacklight Trap (Undertow)

Milton Mapes' songs are a little like archaeological excavations: elemental enough to have existed for centuries until these five bearded local bards came along to uncover them. Third album The Blacklight Trap is heavy with portent, haunted by a mythic America of vast landscapes and endless promise that lingers like a shadow over the decidedly smaller-scale present, where "ghosts lay scarred and rugged as the land." Chief songwriter Greg Vanderpool's frequent references to windswept deserts, lonesome sunsets, and blood-stained river rocks only emphasize the cosmic insignificance of mankind's endeavors – except for the price they exact on the soul. His characters drift aimlessly through the songs, looking for a way out of their dead-end lives but finding only empty rooms and emptier bottles. Musically, the scenery gradually shifts between the Nebraska-like austerity of "Bowie AZ" to the early Crazy Horse stagger of "When the Earth's Last Picture Is Painted," as the subtle variations in mood and tone match the forlorn tenor of the lyrics. Buzzing, ominous "Tornado Weather" pleads for escape before it's too late, while gently hymnlike "Waiting for Love to Fail" reveals that even fatalism comes with its own peculiar peace of mind. Vanderpool's wounded heroes on "Thunderbird" and "Craters of the Moon" have no choice but to press on and face another day. Everybody knows this is nowhere, yes, but it's all we've got. (Thursday, March 17, 10pm @ Bigsby's)

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