David Bazan – Curse Your Branches

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

With Curse Your Branches David Bazan returns with his second release with Barsuk Records (his first being 2006’s Fewer Moving Parts EP), and his first full length since the Headphone’s 2005 self titled album.  After collaborating with TW Walsh on both Pedro the Lion’s Achilles Heel (2004) and the aforementioned Headphones LP, Bazan once again finds himself the captain of the ship, as well as its only crew member.

Curse Your Branches is a fascinating record in that it feels both new and familiar at the same time. The same plaintive singer/songwriter is still present in Bazan that we’ve come to know and love (or loathe) for almost fifteen years now. Tracks like ‘Hard To Be’, ‘Curse Your Branches’ & ‘In Stitches’ feel lived in upon first listen. That’s not to say that these songs are stale. These songs have an urgency that was missing on the Fewer Moving Parts EP. Bazan brings a newfound confidence to these recordings, both musically and lyrically.  On ‘Bless This Mess’, ‘Please Baby, Please’, & ‘When We Fell’ Bazan exhibits a Randy Newman-esque smirk, exuding a swagger not usually found on past Pedro the Lion records.

To address the elephant in the room: David Bazan has written a, as Jessica Hopper put it, “harrowing breakup record” in which he dumps God.  I feel that that is an apt description of a heartbreaking record.  The lyrics on Curse Your Branches have catalogued the both public and private struggles Bazan has had since Pedro the Lion dissolved in 2004, from alcoholism to his departure from a lifetime of faith. This isn’t your feel good Summer road trip record. It’s weighty with its subject matter, it’s the story of growth, departure, and haunting, like the itch on a phantom limb.  This haunting is evident in the album’s closer, ‘In Stitches’: I might as well admit it/ Like I even have a choice/ The crew have killed the captain/ But they still can hear his voice/ A shadow on the water/ A whisper in the wind/ On long walks with my daughter/ Who is lately full of questions about you.

Something must be said about one man in a studio with a clear and concise vision of what he wants to put on tape. Everything, from the reverse playback of the melody at the beginning of ‘Hard to Be’ to the howl of a man with a broken heart on ‘In Stitches’, is in it’s right place. On Curse Your Branches, David Bazan has turned in the most focused album of his career.

David Bazan will be playing at the Mohawk on October 7th.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/blessthismessgfp.mp3]

Download: David Bazan – Bless This Mess [MP3]

8 comments

  • Very nice work for your first review, Mr. Rice.

    Good to have you aboard. Welcome.

  • “Something must be said about one man in a studio with a clear and concise vision of what he wants to put on tape”

    Damn straight… great review & welcome aboard!

  • Thanks guys, it’s great to be here.

    Something I wanted to add about the album that I felt was a bit to ‘churchy’ for the official review:

    What David Bazan has done here is produce an album that will disorient most kids from the Cornerstone set. For someone seeking out faith, it probably isn’t the best thing to listen to, But for a Christian (full disclosure: I am one.), this is a healthy dialogue between one who is struggling with their faith and their creator.

    It’s rooted evenly in between the atheism of Propaghandi and the worship of, say Derek Webb.
    Here God is both revered and despised.

  • Just bought the album… I love it. “The Man In Me” bonus track is indeed a bonus.

  • Great review. I just listened to this album and was actually in tears. I am a Christian also, and continually deal with a lot of the items Bazan writes about on this album. It is painfully and beautifully honest. He is the best lyricist on the planet. Always concise and to the point.

  • @Jason – I agree. I have always been a huge fan of David and his work. I discovered him as a junior/senior in high school and really got into his work with Pedro the Lion. I have bought every Pedro album since and have enjoyed this new solo stuff. His lyrics hit just as much with me as say a Jeff Tweedy or Ryan Adams(if im depressed)

    @Michael – Funny thing… I actually somehow got sent the new Derek Webb in the mail yesterday. Who wants to tackle that one? Oh and great work man!

  • I am intrigued.

    Picturing God out on the lawn, David Bazan throwing all his stuff out the window…

  • @bRETT – …and God has A LOT of stuff, like one of everything, multiples of somethings.

    The man needs a storage unit.

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