“The Heart is Willing,” the first track on the new album, builds from thumping drums and bass. The pace is brisk and it feels a bit paranoid. It stands apart because the album never returns to the same urgent tempo. Musically, it feels like the first track is an event and the other nine tracks are reflections and echoes of it.
While still there, A.A. Bondy’s Americana influences cede ground to rock and classical music influences. This shift captures the bleakness of Bondy’s music well thanks to the mournful, drawn-out tones and increased use of dissonance. “Surfer King” represents the best combination of everything with an enticing minimalist lead-in to a laid back groove.
Bondy’s vocals have changed along with the music. He draws out lyrics more and he sings in a slurring rock style that makes him harder to understand (“The Twist” is good example), but understanding is not required. His lyrics are more about setting a mood rather than being coherent. Take the opening stanza from “Surfer King”:
Behind the red door
in American skin
there is a murder of roses
While that doesn’t make sense, Bondy’s move to a full band does. After hearing Believers, it’s clear this new arrangement will allow him stretch his talent further than he could’ve before.
Believers is available now through Fat Possum Records.