Longtime David Bazan fans have watched the indie songwriter struggle with his Christianity, from the piety that influenced his former band, Pedro the Lion, to the loss of faith chronicled on his last solo album, "Curse Your Branches." But his newest solo release, "Strange Negotiations" touches less on religion and more on the inertia of human relationships.
Sonically, "Strange Negotiations," is a return to the mellow indie-rock of Pedro the Lion. Gone are the keyboards that graced "Curse Your Branches" and his electronic project Headphones, and in their place is the sound of a more traditional guitar-driven band, which pushes such songs as "Eating Paper" forward with dramatic repetitions.
Throughout the album, Bazan sounds as detached as ever. His voice rarely rises above its soft-spoken tone. In fact, the opening riff of "Level With Yourself" boasts more energy than his vocals do. But his lyrics pack a punch even as his voice remains calm. His repetition of "you're a [expletive] fool / and I love you" on "Wolves at the Door" carries a dismissive weariness that's far more cutting than any fiery scream.
-- Catherine P. Lewis