No one tells a story quite like David Bazan. ‘Phoenix’ – his first under the Pedro The Lion moniker in nearly 15 years– is a powerful return, filled with sketches of still life frozen in time and conjured from deep inside the soul.
Of course, during this period away from Pedro The Lion, Bazan has continued to make music, mostly as a solo artist, but also as part of synth-pop supergroup Headphones. Still, Pedro The Lion remains Bazan’s most iconic work, and ‘Phoenix’ fits into the catalogue like a favourite winter coat pulled back into use once the temperature plummets.
Much of ‘Phoenix’ sees Bazan in quiet contemplation and exercising past demons. ‘Yellow Bike’ tells the story of a childhood Christmas and the freedom granted by a little yellow bicycle. It might sound winsome, but the crushing call of “I’d trade my kingdom for someone to ride with” highlights ideas of loneliness and isolation. As such, there’s plenty of depth behind Pedro The Lion’s easy-on-the-ear indie-rock.
Elsewhere, Bazan’s gravelly tones sound like they’re carrying the weight of the world’s problems. ‘Lived in’ doesn’t do it justice, but considering Bazan already sounded like a weathered soul back in 1998, there’s little doubting the authenticity of ‘Phoenix’s intimate stories. Indeed, it possesses all the marks and scars of life’s mistakes, abandoned dreams, and crushed desires.
And yet ‘Phoenix’ feels like an appropriate title; a rebirth and a fresh new start. Flashes of optimism – like the independence afforded by a little yellow bike – punctuate ‘Phoenix’ like sparkling exclamation marks. “Never not dreaming big, looking at model homes again,” Bazan muses in a moment of positive future-gazing on the glorious ‘Model Homes’. These small moments of faith and hope feel like hard-earned wins – but the pay-off is delightful.