Bazan wraps the eras and elements he is familiar with around the warmth of his voice and the world-worn narratives he spins.
For a modern college-aged kid, does name-dropping Pedro the Lion carry any clout? I don’t know, given that I was at the tail end of my college experience when Pedro the Lion was the most common recommendation I was given when I told people I liked Sunny Day Real Estate. Pedro the Lion was David Bazan’s introduction to the music world at large, and he’s been ever-present, though under the radar, ever since. Bazan has a singular voice, and a unique approach to what we might have called “alternative” or “emo” back in my college days, before the term “indie” rock really took a foothold—though the ethos had existed going back to the punk and “college” rock.
Since I’m not a college kid, I can’t tell you how they view David Bazan, even if the majority of the music I enjoy at this point in my life is primarily promoted to that demographic. Chronologically, when I was college-aged, someone like Elvis Costello or Paul Weller would be his equivalent if the rule of thumb was a performer who gained notoriety for work they had done so around the time I was born. Chronology has no place in the matter; Bazan’s always had a knack for presenting his work in timeless manner. His voice will remind a lot of people of Chris Martin or Justin Vernon, when they sing in their lower registers. The comparison flatters those two, as Bazan has always been a master of his craft—which predates Coldplay and Bon Iver. Unlike Martin, Bazan has a capacity for earnest and literate songwriting that has made him a titan among his peers. Two contemporaries rivaling his talents on this front are Death Cab for Cutie’s Benjamin Gibbard and, on occasion, Ryan Adams. Bazan lays the truth bare as far as can be told, and the empathic power he commands is otherworldly at times. It’s not often I experience music as evocative as his.
Through varying incarnations and stylistic adornments (Headphones, Overseas, Solo, with the Passenger String Quartet, Pedro the Lion), Bazan has shown that his gift for writing and arranging songs that flatter his voice, storytelling, and emotional underpinnings is rare. He can take songs from his largely electronic-based projects (Headphones, Blanco: selections from his Bazan monthly 7” series) and strip them down to just his voice and guitar, selling them with the conviction of someone whose life depended on the listener hearing them out. He can take songs written for a three-piece rock band and arrange them for voice, guitar, and a string quartet. His conviction and passion are unwavering, the music and sentiment betraying the depth and sophistication that flatter it.
No matter the incarnation, no matter the vintage, David Bazan has created his own aesthetic: one that folds time in upon itself, and wraps the eras and elements he is familiar with around the warmth of his voice and the world-worn narratives he spins. Bazan has eschewed music industry conventional wisdom to become a benchmark for what any sincere songwriter of the modern era should aspire. In his prime, as he has always seemed to be, Bazan is making music that appeals to the mind and the heart, a listener’s vintage having no bearing.
In true troubadour fashion, the music is carrying him near and far. Bid him a good tiding and lend him your ear when he comes your way; it will do your soul good. | Willie E. Smith
David Bazan plays the Old Rock House June 28; tickets are $15 Laura Gibson opens. Remaining tour dates are below.
06.28 | Old Rock House, St. Louis
06.29 | The Hi-Fi, Indianapolis
06.30 | Lincoln Hall, Chicago
07.01 | The Loving Touch, Ferndale MI
07.02 | The Great Hall, Toronto
07.03 | Pressed, Ottawa
07.05 | The Sinclair, Cambridge MA
07.06 | The Ballroom at the Outdoor Space | Hamden CT
07.07 | Bowery Presents, New York
07.08 | Johnny Brenda’s, Philadelphia
07.09 | Black Cat, Washington DC
07.10 | The Southern, Charlottesville VA
07.11 | Cat’s Cradle | Carrboro NC
07.13 | Grey Eagle, Asheville NC
07.14 | The Earl, Atlanta
08.04 | Jack Rabbits, Jacksonville
08.05 | The Social, Orlando
08.06 | Crowbar, Tampa
08.08 | The Syndicate, Birmingham
08.09 | Exit/In | Nashville
08.10 | Hi Tone Café, Memphis
08.11 | Stickyz Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicken Shack, Little Rock
08.12 | The Vanguard, Tulsa
08.13 | Dan’s Silverleaf, Denton TX
08.14 | White Oak Music Hall, Houston
08.15 | The Parish, Austin
08.17 | Bowie Feathers, El Paso
08.18 | Low Spirits, Albuquerque
08.19 | The Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix
08.20 | Casbah, San Diego
08.21 | The Wayfarer, Costa Mesa CA
08.22 | Teragram Ballroom, Los Angeles
08.24 | The Independent, San Francisco
08.27 | Mississippi Students, Portland
08.28 | The Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver CAN