Pedro the Lion: Phoenix
Only David Bazan could make an adolescent purchase sound as dramatic as a crucifixion. “Saving up for a Santa Cruz skateboard/ Kid sister said, ‘How much have you saved?’/ I calculated then hung my head in shame,” the songwriter moans on Pedro the Lion’s fifth LP, his melancholic melody circling over a vintage slowcore guitar riff. “I spent it all at Circle K, dreaming it was only pocket change.” Phoenix is the first Pedro album in 15 years, but it’s far from a reinvention for Bazan—full of the same bummed-out, bentnote guitar patterns, sing-songy hooks and soul-bearing lyrics that have defined his work with both the band and as a solo artist. (And considering he’s written—and often performed—almost all those tracks himself, there’s never been much of a difference between the two.) The name switch is more of a practical matter: He composed the songs in the same style as early Pedro records like 2004’s Achilles Heel , building arrangements brick-by-brick in his rehearsal space. Moniker aside, the shift seems to have reinvigorated Bazan, who churns out some of his most moving and sonically intriguing material in over a decade: “My Phoenix” builds to a turbulent climax full of wordless yelps and rumbling distortion; on “All Seeing Eye,” he observes a crumbling “promised land” amid snaking post-rock guitars; and the devastating “Black Canyon” recounts the aftermath of a grisly suicide, with a brooding bass on the same wavelength.