Bazan: ballads bleak & beautiful

david bazanFor those who can’t place the name of David Bazan, perhaps his former band name, Pedro the Lion, will ring a bell. Under that banner, Bazan came to Missoula a few years ago for a transfixing, sold-out show at the Other Side.

Bazan / Pedro the Lion first came to indie-scene prominence around the turn of the millennium, with a series of stripped-down, mostly downtempo albums that placed him neatly in the emerging scene of so-called “slowcore” acts.

Fans knew that Pedro the Lion was, in most senses, a solo act, backed by a rotating cast of musicians. So anyone who ever fell in love with that act – or, for that matter, his subsequent synth-heavy act, Headphones — should be pleased to hear of Bazan’s return to Missoula, this time under his own name, “+ Band.”

According to a recent blog post by Bazan’s tour manager, the current touring show should sound pretty familiar to long-time (or way-back) fans. “The band is a 4-piece this time, and everyone agrees that such a setup makes for a way more exciting rock-and-roll show,” he wrote. “Lots of Pedro the Lion jams are being played, and also most of C your B’s (‘Curse Your Branches,’ Bazan’s most recent solo full-length album).”

That’s all good news. “Curse Your Branches” echoes much of Bazan’s previous work, with achingly doleful, sparsely instrumented balladry interspersed with a few more upbeat tunes, all overlaid by Bazan’s slush-mouthed singing. The result is a record that fits roughly in the realm of indie darlings like Death Cab for Cutie and Bright Eyes.

“It’s hard to be, hard to be / Hard to be a decent human being,” Bazan chants on the album’s opener. (Check out this video of him playing the song at a house concert; it’s excellent)

But whether he’s a band or a man, it’s clearly not hard for Bazan to be a more-than-decent channeler of modern angst and hope.

David Bazan + Band come to the Palace next Thursday, April 8, for a show along with singer/songwriter Karli Fairbanks. Admission is $10.

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