Style: Melodic slowcore with a folk-rock backbone; compare to Pedro the Lion, Low, Damien Jurado
Top tracks: "Strange Negotiations" "Don't Change," "Virginia"
"Riches I heed not nor man's empty praise," David Bazan sings on "Level with Yourself," the second track on his new album. But don't get lulled into a rendition of "Be Thou My Vision" just yet. Leave it to Bazan to ascribe a subverted meaning to a hymn lyric, completing the couplet with: "[expletive] the gatekeeper, 'cause I'm fine outside the gate."
That duality of tradition and rebellion has always characterized Bazan—ever awkward in Christian and secular circles but respected by segments of both. As a professing Christian in Pedro the Lion, Bazan was rarely mum about his nagging spiritual hangups nor shy about his castigations of evangelicalism. He drank. He cursed. Some believers loved his honesty and openness. Others made him a pariah.
In 2009, Bazan released Curse Your Branches, his first record under his given name. It was a landmark album in which Bazan drew a line in the sand between belief and unbelief, and, shaking his fist at God, chose the latter. (Read why Bazan made that choice here.) For Christian fans it was sad, even tragic. But it was landmark in another way, as well. Curse Your Branches was arguably the best album Bazan has ever made—artfully, meticulously arranged and sung with such raw conviction that listening from a distance was nearly impossible. In painfully candid revelations, Bazan asked tough questions and mourned his inability to find answers in the places he used to look.
Strange Negotiations, recorded with his touring bandmates, further perfects Bazan's lumbering, confessional songwriting. In his ponderous vocal style, Bazan revisits ...1