Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Album Review: David Bazan-Curse Your Branches

David Bazan is one conflicted guy. Over a career of about 15 years, he's played multiple instruments in multiple bands, none as prominent as the singer, guitar player, and guiding voice of Pedro The Lion. During this time, he's become somewhat of an anomaly in the music scene, somehow simultaneously becoming something of a legend in indie circles, while remaining completely anonymous otherwise.

The above mentioned conflict rises from the fact that Bazan got his start as a poster boy for "Christian indie rock". The first Pedro The Lion release, a 1997 EP entitled Whole, was put out by renowned Christian label Tooth & Nail. Since then, he seems to have become somewhat jaded by this whole "religion" thing.

His music has often seemed to question the logic behind some of his (and our) decisions made in the name of faith. While this has been hinted at before, it's put more bluntly here than ever before. Lines like "Wait just a minute, you expect me to believe, that all this misbehaving grew from one enchanted tree?" (from album opener Hard To Be) make it clear that Bazan's faith is no longer standing on solid ground. While it seems he hasn't completely closed the door, he's definitely well on his way to agnosticism, if he's not there already.

Musically, he's turned a bit of a corner. Straightforward drums and minimalist guitars are largely replaced by swirling keyboards and lush instrumentation. The album kicks off with a minute and a half instrumental introduction, before launching into the dark lyrical fodder. Third track, Please, Baby, Please is possibly the poppiest song he's ever written, with an almost Caribbean feel (the electric guitar sounds like a steel drum, and the multi-tracked vocals toward the end sound a bit like a Hawaiian pedal steel). The intro for Harmless Sparks takes him to more familiar territory, before the keyboards and shakers mix things up a bit. Closer In Stitches is a simple piano ballad, but the simplicity of it is what makes it great. It's a perfect way to wrap up the album.

Some of the best examples of works of art were created out of pain and confusion. These two words are both apt in describing David Bazan's latest album. I hate to say it, but if his internal conflicts keep leading to music this good, I don't want him to figure things out any time soon.

Please, Baby, Please

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