Review Summary: The former Pedro the Lion singer embraces his doubts.
When David Bazan started Pedro the Lion some fourteen years ago, his intimate lyrics and overwhelming sense of perception gained him quick adoration from more devout indie fans. He never was content singing praise songs, but instead penned testaments to his struggles with faith and addiction. After all, like the rest of us, he's only human. For many of his fans, Bazan's early songs connected at a personal level, especially songs like “The Secret of the Easy Yoke”. As Bazan's career progressed so did his doubts. By the time Pedro the Lion called it quits in 2005, Bazan's views on sex, his heavy drinking, and tales of betrayal rather than those of praise and forgiveness had alienated many of his former fans.
In the five years that have passed since Pedro the Lion's swan song, Achilles Heel
, Bazan's doubt has turned into rejection. His first solo full-length Curse Your Branches
is an inward gaze into the mind of a man no longer questioning the fading of his convictions but embracing it. “Wait just a minute/ you expect me to believe /that all this misbehaving/ grew from one enchanted tree?
” he asks on the album's opener “Hard to Be”. His new found acceptance of his ventures into agnosticism drives Curse Your Branches
. Not only does he clarify his descent from faith, but also defends it from those closest to him, especially on “When We Fall” where he bitterly sings “If my mother cries when I tell her what I discovered/ then I hope she remembers she taught me to fallow my heart / and if you bully her like you done me with fear of damnation / then I hope she can see you for what you are
Bazan's heavy lyricism is held in check by the vibrant instrumentation. Developing the more lively and twangy aspects of Achilles Heel
, most notably on tracks such as “Bearing Witness” and “Please Baby, Please”, Bazan presents a strong country vibe to the mid-tempo indie rock sound that he has worked with since the late nineties. That's not to say that he has abandoned the somber acoustic numbers that have made him so endearing. If it wasn't for the lyrical shift “Harmless Sparks” would fit snugly between any of the songs on 1998's It's Hard to Find A Friend
On David Bazan's Barsuk debut, he spills his heart into every aspect of the album. Curse Your Branches
is yet another glimpse into the soul and psyche of one of America's most over looked singer songwriters, and is easily Bazan's best work in over a decade.