Published Mar 02, 2017Since starting Pedro the Lion in the mid '90s, David Bazan has slowly built a reputation as an introspective singer-songwriter. His latest, Care, is a step up in quality from his most recent work and a new direction for the now-middle-aged troubadour.
Bazan more fully embraced synths on last year's Blanco, and has only refined his approach for Care. An album of almost only synths and voice might be a risk, but it pays off thanks to the crisp production from Richard Swift. Juxtaposed with chilly synths, it's easy to all the warmth of a fingerpicked acoustic guitar contained in Bazan's voice alone. Fans of soft-spoken, indie/emo singer-songwriters haven't heard textures like this since the Postal Service's Give Up, though thematically, Care is closer to Radiohead's A Moon Shaped Pool or Father John Misty's I Love You, Honeybear.
Bazan's candid songwriting here examines his domestic life as a husband and father. One technique he uses for this is a 'turn' or 'volta' towards the end of each song, a single line that either changes the meaning or reveals it. In "Care," it's "stop romanticizing cheating"; in "Sparkling Water," he confesses "I don't want to be alone"; and as "Inner Lives" paints a scene of a morning coffee and joke between spouses, it ends with the line, "in an instant I remembered who we are." Album closer "The Ballad of Pedro y Blanco" closes with the lyric "put down your guitar, go enjoy it right now," a poignant idea concerning struggle between touring and domestic life.
The sonic risks and personal openness make Care the best thing Bazan has done in years. (Undertow)