The sixth studio album from Archer of Loaf's grizzled Eric Bachmann dials down the ornate arrangements that adorned previous outings in favor of a more primal and pared-down production style that suits the Athens, Georgia-based singer/songwriter’s most spirited collection of tunes to date. Recorded and mixed by Matt Yelton, the live sound engineer for the Pixies, Breaks in the Armor manages to feel both lived-in and untamed. Written primarily overseas in Taipei, where Bachmann spent most of 2009 teaching English as a second language, the album is both understated and grand. Steeped in the heady waters of Mickey Newbury-meets-Bruce Springsteen-infused heartland heartache and peppered with dusty blasts of gothic outlaw imagery, Breaks in the Armor works best when it's got nothing to lose. Songs like “Typhoon,” “Bad Blood,” “Black Candles,” and “Went to the City,” the latter of which features a lead vocal that skillfully blurs the line between desperation and redemption, bristle with bonfire bravado and boozy swagger, while hard-hitting midtempo numbers like “Heavy Hours” and “War Horses” feel just as unhinged, though they disguise themselves as ballads. It may not be as pretty as Red Devil Dawn or as road trip-ready as Forfeit/Fortune, but Breaks in the Armor has got more gas in the tank than either of them. ~ James Christopher Monger, Rovi

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