You probably know A. A. Bondy for his evocative songwriting and stripped-down style — a reasonable expectation, as his first two albums were in that very style, and it’s what he made his solo name on. Through those first two albums, he made his name as an effective songwriter in the folk style, and his songs were really very good. But with Believers being his third album, it was perhaps time for a minor shift in style to, you know, freshen things up.
Why, then, am I surprised that Believers departs from his stripped-down instrumentation, a lush aural environment taking its place? Because, well, this is good. And I don’t just mean passable — that was sort of a foregone conclusion. This is really quite good even though the lyrical sensibilities he brought to the fore of his style previously are perhaps buried a bit. There’s something regrettable about that, though not in a big way, because the additional layers are viscerally enjoyable: The steel pedal, the fullness of the guitar, the wholly flowing feel to some of these tracks — it all makes for quite an experience.
A. A. Bondy has made himself out be a songwriter worth his weight in, well, something — salt, probably, but how much does he weigh? I can get 100 lbs. of fine rock salt for $130, so I’d say he’s worth somewhat more than about $200 (a rough estimate, mind.) Back to the point, right? Believers is good, and it builds on the work he’s done without tearing it down. The stylistic shift he engages in is both effective and approachable, but most importantly, the album just … works. Everything comes together in a beautiful collision of sound, and the sound of the impact is more ocean-waves-soothing than it is jolting. And when you make a shift like this, that really is something you’ve got to look out for.