Release Date: May 24, 2011
Record label: Barsuk
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
When an artist “goes solo,” does the sophomore album rule of thumb still apply? No matter, David Bazan’s avoided that particular pitfall with the solid Strange Negotiations with — not grace, but something like it. He’s never been a particularly graceful artist, and it’s one of his enviable strengths. When he was fronting Pedro the Lion, Bazan was clumsy, awkward even, but he was ruthlessly efficient.
David Bazan chronicled his breakup with God on Curse Your Branches, his first solo album. Strange Negotiations deals with the aftermath. “I’m making a list of all the negative side effects,” Bazan sings during the second song, and he follows through on that promise, writing in unflinching detail about his controversial transformation from church-goer to skeptic.
It’s not like he’s a great singer, but David Bazan certainly knows his voice. On Strange Negotiations, Bazan’s second solo album, he mostly sounds world-weary. There’s an edge in his throat and absolutely zero BS in his straightforward delivery of lines like “You’re a goddamn fool and I love you.” Expression and emotion seem afterthoughts.
David Bazan’s range is limited; his voice is raw and rough. His particular style of guitar-playing consists of chugging out bursts of one chord—pausing—and then moving on to the next, a locomotive train pulling in and out of a quick succession of stations. It’s a steam-engine comparison worth making since his latest effort, Strange Negotiations, fashions itself after the legend Bazan sings about on “Eating Paper,” a rollicking song that is one of the many highlights on the album—“John Henry dies in a tunnel/Hammer in his hand/Steam drill lives on/To make fools of every man.” Like John Henry, Strange Negotiations is workman-like.