Curse Your Branches is the full length solo debut from David Bazan, the Seattle-based singer-songwriter best known as the driving force behind the now-defunct Pedro the Lion, who are known for their melodic, down-tempo pop rock and poignant lyircs. Since Pedro the Lion was really less of a band and more of a creative outlet for Bazan (who was also the only permanent member), it’s not surprising that Curse Your Branches isn’t too much of a departure from his earlier work. Here, Bazan is still strumming an acoustic guitar and singing earnestly, mostly about matters of faith and religion. Curse Your Branches begins at the beginning—as in, the Book of Genesis. When Bazan sings the story of Adam and Eve on opener “Hard to Be,” he sets up a recurring theme for the album since many of these songs deal with the Fall (think Milton, not Mark E. Smith).
If you are a fan of Pedro the Lion (and/or Bazan’s synth pop side project Headphones), there’s no reason you won’t enjoy this. But for the uninitiated, Bazan’s droning voice over slow folky pop can be a bit much. The word “plodding” comes to mind. Still, Bazan is undoubtedly a talented songwriter and he manages to write thoughtfully about faith while never preaching. The closest he comes to sermonizing is on the upbeat rocker “Bearing Witness,” but it doesn’t hurt that the song has the most memorable melody on the album and injects some energy into a largely lifeless release.