Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a significant number of alternative and emo bands from the 90’s and early 2000’s reunite and return to the studio to release new music. Slowdive, American Football, and pretty soon Mineral will have released albums after some extended hiatuses that we weren’t ever sure would end. One band that fits this description, Pedro the Lion, just released an album last Friday entitled Phoenix, although this rebirth looks a bit different from it’s contemporaries.
Since the late 90’s, David Bazan has been releasing music under a handful of monikers that dive deep into complicated and emotional topics, such as fleeting spirituality, corrupt politicians, and very commonly, isolation. This is Bazan’s first time returning to the name Pedro the Lion since the 2004 LP, Achilles Heel. The return of the name isn’t technically a reunion, as Bazan himself played everything, and used wide range of musicians to fill in for live shows and such. While it may be the first Pedro the Lion record in 15 years, Bazan has kept himself busy touring and releasing music mostly under his own name.
The primary reasoning behind the album’s title isn’t some metaphor for the band finally rising from the ashes, but instead is simply the name of the city that Bazan grew up in. Place and identity go hand in hand, and all throughout this album we see how Bazan’s early experiences have shaped him, and how the loneliness he felt back then has manifested itself somehow on nearly every album he’s worked on.
We first get a peek into this era of Bazan’s life with the lead single “Yellow Bike”. He reflects on the freedom of being able to go anywhere, but still wishing he’d have someone to go with, whether it be in his “kingdom” of Phoenix, Arizona in 1981, or touring solo across the country in 2017. No line on this album better conveys this feeling than on “Model Homes”, where Bazan describes his childhood dream of someday starting a family (a dream that’s been fulfilled, in case you were wondering). “I wanna live with someone else, give them my whole self. I wanna be not lonely.” The album isn’t just a dozen tracks lamenting on isolation, but is a series of flashbacks that Bazan uses to give listeners a glimpse of how he retroactively feels about the interactions and relationships that has made him who he is today. The six minute album closer “Leaving The Valley” does a fantastic job of tying all of these experiences together, as well as getting us ready for the next step of Pedro The Lion’s story.
Recommended If You Like: Cursive, Conor Oberst, Pity Sex
Recommended Tracks: 2 (Yellow Bike), 3 (Clean Up), 5 (Model Homes), 7 (Circle K), 8 (Quietest Friend), 13 (Leaving the Valley)
Do Not Play: None
Written by Patrick Kennedy on 01/22/2019