Albums about breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend after a long relationship are pretty common; albums about splitting with God after a lifetime together are rare. But as the voice of Pedro The Lion, David Bazan was never the typical Christian-rocker: His songs often dealt with crises of faith, and Bazan spent far less time praising His name than questioning His motives. At some point in the last few years, Bazan apparently began to heed his own doubts. Curse Your Branches—his first solo album, though Pedro was basically just Bazan anyway—pushes him into full-on agnosticism, though that changes little about his terrifically melancholy music.
“Hard To Be” begins the album on a pretty direct note, re-telling the story of Adam and Eve from a doubter’s (overly simple) perspective, “You expect me to believe that all this misbehaving grew from one enchanted tree?” As ham-handed as that sounds on paper, it’s just the tip of the doubt-heavy iceberg that Curse Your Branches crashes into. The disc also confronts Bazan’s descent into serious drinking, with nods to the personal pain he’s caused his wife and child. It’s heavy stuff, to be sure, but Bazan is such an astute chronicler of his own emotions—no matter how ugly—that even his darkest moments ironically offer serious inspiration. Like the subject matter itself, he’s a rarity.