After sparring for a decade with the Almighty as Pedro The Lion, David Bazan owned up to his newfound agnosticism and dropped the old moniker in 2006. On his subsequent full-length, Curse Your Branches, he expanded his sound with vocal harmonies, pedal steel, and blubbery synths borrowed from his side project The Headphones, but the lyrics were as biblically grounded as ever. With Strange Negotiations, he largely moves the conversation away from the eternal and toward the everyday, focusing on struggles with alcoholism and what it’s like to be ideologically out of sync with family and friends. Musically, though, it’s a return to the sometimes plodding, guitar-driven indie-rock that defined his early career. Enduring a long, dark night of the soul hasn’t sullied Bazan’s ability to find a great vocal hook, but he sounds a bit more frayed around the edges on this outing. That extra catch in his voice is well employed on the explosive rebuke “People,” and on “Virginia,” which trades the younger Bazan’s bitterness toward religion for a more contemplative regret at the relationships he missed out on. David Bazan’s music used to be described as having crossover appeal, but he was the one who ultimately crossed over. Fortunately for fans, he’s a more vital source of righteous anger now than he ever was as a believer.
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