Despite two previous albums — 2009’s Curse Your Branches and 2011’s Strange Negotiations — David Bazan isn’t the kind of artist that can easily be categorized by simply giving a cursory listen. His new effort, Blanco, makes that all too clear. A full-time traveling musician, Bazan confronts a variety of challenging issues having to do with maintaining relationships, a family and his own limitations. They’re issues arising from the fact that being away from home on a frequent basis inevitably makes him wonder who is left behind when he leaves, and what will await him once he returns Little wonder then that the songs are somber and sobering to a large extent, made more so by the fact that synths and drum machines underscore the material and the overall ambiance as well.
Consisting of tracks that were previously available in a limited edition 7” vinyl series called Bazan Monthly, Volume 1 and Volume 2, the new album was written from a domestic perspective, as Bazan sat in his basement, contemplated his surroundings and then forced himself to come to grips with what it means to constantly be away in order to support his family. The chaos and cacophony of opening track “Both Hands” reflects this off-kilter lifestyle, and once he works his way through songs like “Oblivion,” “Little Landslide,” “Kept Secrets” and “Teardrops,” the deeply rooted emotions, relayed in those techno terms, become as apparent as the names that are given to the songs themselves. The skittish “Trouble With Boys” and the softer sentiments of “With You” are revealing as well, reflective of the titles, but they also manage to offer a slight respite from the downcast disposition that reaches its peak with the final flourish of “Little Motor.”
Ultimately Bazan deserves kudos for offering such a personal perspective in the starkest of terms. Think Depeche Mode, the Cure or Earsure for the sake of quick comparisons. In this case, Blanco won’t inspire listeners to start humming along. Still, it ought to give them something to consider, even after those final notes fade away.