When you hear that a record is being released under the title of “Phoenix”, there is an immediate assumption that this is a rebirth of a band allowing them to reissue themselves and create something new. David Bazan needs no such rebirth or reintroduction into our world, and proves that with his project Pedro the Lion’s newest release “Phoenix”. Instead of doing what is expected, Bazan decides to take the rebirth idea and flip it. Without drowning in egotistic waters, the album focuses on his childhood spent living out in the western part of the united states for a real understanding of his deepest flaws and most fundamental beliefs. Bazan has been releasing albums under his own name for a while, but Pedro the Lion seemed like the perfect fit for this outpour of emotion and sound.
The last Pedro the lion album came in 2004, which feels like another lifetime. So when fans of Bazan’s previous work saw that there was a new record coming out, it seemed like a spark was lit once again. Immediately, there is something intriguing about the sound. With a humming intro, Bazan demonstrates this won’t be a run of the mill album. The emo/alternative sound doesn’t kick you in the gut right out of the gate but allows a gentle intro with “Sunrise”. A more subtle way that Bazan shows the depth he’s created with Pedro the Lion, leading straight into “Yellow Bike” that is reminiscent of the early 2000s in the best ways. This delicate balance of sound is something that keeps you listening throughout. The new sounds cling to your ears, while the familiar ones nest.
The album from start to finish feels like Bazan is reading out of a journal he’s been keeping, revisiting moments in his life and reexamining them with new eyes. “Quietest Friend” might be the track that encapsulates this perfectly. The track reflects on a relationship be left in a momentary lapse for acceptance by the cool kids at school. Acknowledging that the impulse was a moment of weakness and that others were hurt in the process of being selfish, he tries to provide some area of clarity on how it can be better. We could write me some reminders/I’d memorize them” … “I could put them on a record about my hometown/Sitting here with pen and paper/I’m listening now.”
“Clean Up” gives a childlike look in the Bazan’s world, giving a singalong and simplistic feel to the chorus. A line that cuts deep, “I tried eternity and a couple of other drugs, it was such a romantic place to hide”, feels as if anyone can see themselves in Bazan’s shoes, which not only allows connection from people listening but for those who have found themselves in a fairly similar scenario, that they aren’t the only ones who have felt that before. “My Phoenix” connects with those who have left their hometown and returned for something big like birth or passing. The track bounces along with a more upbeat sound, but still tugging at you emotionally reminding you that, that connection to something weakens over time.
Bazan’s vocals hum and travel with precision like never heard previously on Pedro the Lion albums. There is a sense of honesty and humbleness when singing such personal songs. It feels like this album was meant to be held off for years, allowing Bazan’s voice to age and add depth. The lower tone not only adds to the authenticity of the album but gives a strong emotional connection to the listener.