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Album review: David Bazan's 'Curse Your Branches'

Bazan On the first full-length he's released under his name, David Bazan describes his recent struggles with faith and addiction in language that makes it clear how far he's traveled since dissolving Pedro the Lion in 2005.

Bazan built an intensely devoted following inside the Christian community during his decade-long run with Pedro, asking tough questions of religion from the perspective of a thoughtful believer. Here, though, the doubt that Bazan has always scratched at takes a firmer, more certain form: "I clung to miracles I have not seen," he admits in "Bearing Witness," "From ancient autographs I cannot read."

The past tense there is crucial: "Curse Your Branches" documents Bazan's coming to terms with his newfound agnosticism, a change of heart he credits in "When We Fell" to his inability to accept "the threat of hell hanging over my head like a halo." ("In what medieval kingdom does justice work this way?" he wonders later in that song.)

Despite its undercurrent of outrage, "Branches" -- which expands Pedro's folksy sound with creamy keyboards, processed drum beats and the occasional spritz of glam-rock guitar -- is no shorter on moral compassion than the older material that earned Bazan a home at Cornerstone, the annual Christian music festival that he played this summer for the first time since 2005, when he was asked to leave after showing up drunk for a performance.

Perhaps that's because Bazan, who plays the Troubadour Oct. 4, still views his work as evangelical in nature: "I discovered hell to be the poison in the well," he sings in "Bless This Mess," "So I tried to warn the others of the curse."

--Mikael Wood

David Bazan 
"Curse Your Branches" 
Three and a half stars
Comments () | Archives (6)

Bazan is a creative, introspective and authentic song-writer. His new album is as honest as anything he's ever put out. The major difference on this release is the addition of richer instrumentation. Instead of his signature slow drum beats and an acoustic guitar, he's added upbeat electric drums, some slide guitar, synth and other layers. This album turns over a new leaf for Bazan. Go BUY it!

Had the great pleasure of sitting down to dinner with Bazan last month - superstar director Chase Jarvis captured his performance from the table, damn powerful: http://tinyurl.com/metxqw

Having heard the record 5 or 10 times since its release, this is a fairly inocuous review. Admittedly I'm handicapped by total sympathy to Bazan's perspective as well as total ignorance of his prior work. What I will say is that the artistry on "Curse Your Branches" sounds genuine, and there's some classic - if not ground-breaking - songs on this record. A particular favorite is Lost My Shape. It sounds vintage in part because of the instrumentation but largely to Bazan's hard-won soul. It can't be hard to have lived the life he's led, especially the recent times. As one who married as a church-going Christian but now lives still married but no longer a church-goer, I think I have a small peak at what he's up against. I never leveraged my professional life toward evangelicalism the way he has, but I do know the confused regret of this song. Best of luck, David.

This album is of those few ones that carries out a meaningful message to the listener and can touch one so deeply! An awesome one!!!

i ain't buyin it. i'm torrenting it. but i'll pay to see him live in a bar or somethin, until i get thrown out after chuckin' a bottle at his stupid head.

in the 21st, people live in comfortable bubbles with plenty of room to stretch out their agnostic beliefs. what a world...


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