Santa Cruz (Pedro The Lion) – music review

Pedro the Lion is the musical project of David Bazan, known for his distinctive voice and sharp songwriting. After a 15-year hiatus, Bazan revived the project in 2019 with Phoenix, followed by Havasu in 2022. The albums chronicle Bazan’s peripatetic youth, influenced by his father’s career as a music minister. The latest album, Santa Cruz, continues this autobiographical journey.

Santa Cruz narrates Bazan’s teenage years, exploring his experiences from the age of 13 to 21. The album highlights his musical awakening, personal growth, and the realization that he must forge his own path distinct from his parents’ expectations. The songs are vivid, capturing moments of discovery, love, and self-awareness. Santa Cruz has moments where Bazan’s vivid lyrics synch perfectly with the more upbeat nature of these 11 tracks. When that connection happens there is not a better singer/songwriter out there!

The album features a blend of indie rock with influences of synth-led arrangements. The music is characterized by quick rhythms and a more urgent tempo compared to Bazan’s earlier work, which was often associated with a slower, more deliberate pace. There are times longtime fans may have some difficulty with some of synths because it is a shift in Bazan’s music but I feel most of time he uses them for more of a dynamic backdrop versus driving the songs.

Bazan’s lyrics on Santa Cruz are vivid and personal, capturing the complexities of adolescence and the struggle for self-identity. His ability to transform personal history into universal themes of growth and discovery makes the album resonate deeply with listeners. His lyrics are the glue that holds this album together and makes it really easy to identify with and get lost in.

Santa Cruz marks a shift in Bazan’s musical approach, with a faster pace and more dynamic arrangements. The detailed imagery in the lyrics is complemented by a more immediate and energetic musical backdrop, signaling a departure from the slower, contemplative style of previous albums. There are several songs that this more upbeat approach will lock them in your head and are instantly recognizable upon repeat listens.

Key tracks on the album include “Tall Pines,” which captures the restlessness of constant relocations, “Don’t Cry Now,” notable for its danceable quality, and “Modesto,” which is one of the bigger sounding tracks on the album and serves as a pivotal moment of self-realization and commitment to a musical future. “Spend Time” is another upbeat track that is just a little over 2 minutes long and has a catchy chorus that only gets better with each spin.

Christopher Anthony
For more of Christopher Anthony’s music reviews, check out The Fire Note

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