Ranger Sound LLC
ATT Internet 75

Holy and unholy

| June 6, 2011 | 0 Comments

Alela Diane‘s gift for conveying traditional folk songs has led some people to believe she’s some divine vessel, a cipher drawing together influences from British and American sources. David Bazan made his name because of his literal holiness.

Neither will let you get away with those characterizations, the former because she never said nothing about it and Bazan since he spent a whole record renouncing his always wobbly faith. Not that there’s any problem with having religion and singing about it (especially if you wish to curry favor with the Almighty), but it’s simply not the issue today.

Diane’s latest album, Alela Diane & Wild Divine (Rough Trade), underscores as much, compartmentalizing her past work into a single track (“The Wind” — despite what you can infer from the title “Elijah”). The rest of the album is spent seeing what she can do with folk-rock’s hastily ascribed boundaries. Electric piano can be seen as soon as you crack the door, and it’s not long before the allusion to percussion on past albums finally crashes a cymbal. “Heartless Highway” pushes the hardest, invoking the classic gait of “Take Five” and giving it the sultry flavor the bespectacled Dave Brubeck never could. (Thursday@Empty Bottle with The Parson Redheads and The Singleman Affair.)

The rise and (spiritual) fall of Bazan has been as compelling an indie-rock soap opera as any that hasn’t involved an arrest or untimely death. His second album as Pedro The Lion was so good it caused his obscure debut to be reissued. At his peak, he headlined Park West and was able to interrupt his concerts with faith-based question-and-answer sessions that mirrored his jarring songs, which proved him devout yet someone dealing with and adapting his beliefs on a daily basis. After a rough spell during which he was hammered on Pitchfork and kicked out of the Christian-themed Cornerstone festival for being hammered, he broke with his upbringing and chronicled it on his full-length solo debut, Curse Your Branches (Barsuk).

Free of all that drama, Strange Negotiations should theoretically represent his new beginning (acting as if Branches were the final PTL issue). Naturally, it’s not a smooth transition. As the familiar holdover, Bazan’s blocky, earnest sing-speak never quite finds a melody it can exploit. Working with a full band and dispensing his synthesizer tendencies, his writing needs something more than a parabolic storyteller to push it through. His cultural critiques have come a long way since “When They Really Get To Know You They Will Run,” though his talent for melody seems to have suffered some neglect. (Wednesday@Lincoln Hall with Cotton Jones.)

— Steve Forstneger

Tags: , ,

Category: Stage Buzz, Weekly

About the Author ()

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.