Review Summary: Bazan's lyrics are introspective and dreary as usual, but the synth-driven sound leaves a bit to be desired.
If there’s one thing I appreciate in a musician, it’s honest songwriting. David Bazan
is an honest songwriter; he’s one of the most honest songwriters I can think of. Bazan is an interesting character: once an outspoken Christian writing songs about his faith and doubts in Pedro the Lion
, he has since fallen away from the faith and now mostly writes songs dealing with crumbling marriages, existential anxiety and arguments with God. His newest album, “Care” covers all these topics and more, and it’s done in a way only Bazan could do it.
Similar to his 2016 release, “Blanco,” “Care” has Bazan swapping his guitar for synthesizers and drum machines. A majority of the songs are sparsely constructed, featuring little more than looping arpeggios, simple drum patterns and interspersed synth chords. In terms of the instrumentation, “Up All Night,” “Lazerbeams” and “Keep Trying” are some of the poppiest sounding songs Bazan’s written, while “Permanent Record” sounds like it could have come from the soundtrack of the television program “Twin Peaks.”
The one thing connecting this wide variety of tracks is Bazan’s vocals. And rightfully so, as each song has an engaging story to tell. Singles “Care” and “The Ballad of Pedro y Blanco” are two of the brighter spots on the album, both sonically and lyrically; the former focuses on two friends that resist their attractions to one another to remain faithful to their spouses, and the latter shows the contentment and fulfillment found in a lifelong marriage.
My biggest gripe with this album is that some of the songs sound a little too sparse; a little too half-baked. While “Blanco” had a similar sound, those songs felt more complete than the ones on “Care.” On the other hand, Bazan’s storytelling and honesty haven’t faltered, which, for many, is the biggest draw to his music to begin with. Bazan’s never been one for extravagant instrumentation and complex song structures; his lyrics have always taken precedence in his music. While I enjoy this album, I don’t enjoy it as much as his previous material. The honesty is still there, but the music itself doesn’t quite satisfy. It’s not as if his songwriting has taken a step back when he made the switch to a synth-driven sound. It’s just that I much prefer the sound of his older work than on these past two albums.
FAVORITE TRACKS: Care, Sparkling Water, Inner Lives, The Ballad of Pedro y Blanco
LEAST FAVORITE TRACKS: Make Music, Lazerbeams