David Bazan chronicled his breakup with God on Curse Your Branches, his first solo album. Strange Negotiations deals with the aftermath. “I’m making a list of all the negative side effects,” Bazan sings during the second song, and he follows through on that promise, writing in unflinching detail about his controversial transformation from church-goer to skeptic. The stories that fill Strange Negotiations are usually dark, filled with faithlessness and fair-weather friends. The one thing that hasn’t gone to hell in Bazan’s life is love, and he ends the album on a comparatively high note, declaring, “Darling death will have to pry my fingers loose, ‘cause I will not let go of you” over sparse percussion and atmospheric electric guitar. Losing his religion doesn’t mean he’s lost his gift for indie rock songwriting, though, and fans who’re willing to indulge Bazan’s soul-searching will find Strange Negotiations similar to Pedro the Lion’s catalog, with a familiar mix of minor-key starkness and lush, guitar-fueled rock songs. There’s a full band playing along with Bazan this time around, lending a sense of weight that was absent from Curse Your Branches, and the melodies are sung with a sort of world-weary, boozy elegance, as though Bazan recorded his vocals after hitting up a wine bar. He’s always sounded mournful. Now he’s got the experience to back it up.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey