David Bazan – Curse Your Branches
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]