When an artist “goes solo,” does the sophomore album rule of thumb still apply? No matter, David Bazan’s avoided that particular pitfall with the solid Strange Negotiations with — not grace, but something like it. He’s never been a particularly graceful artist, and it’s one of his enviable strengths.
When he was fronting Pedro the Lion, Bazan was clumsy, awkward even, but he was ruthlessly efficient. That’s continued into his solo career: Bazan doesn’t just throw ideas into a song; he molds and crafts them to a point that the music almost seems secondary — not an ignored secondary aspect, and one that’s not given short shrift.
…This is an album that’s more lyrically subtle than Curse Your Branches, and in that same way, it’s sounds a deal less angry. Of course, we still have lines like, “Wake up in the morning / Check your revelation / Make sure you know it as well as you can,” in Level With Yourself. It’s clear that Strange Negotiations is not a wholly secular piece, but Bazan is clearly moving in that direction.