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CD of the Month: Pedro The Lion - Havasu

The teen years are a tumultuous, emotional time for everyone, and even more so when a family move comes into play. Ending up in an unknown place at such a formative time can be jarring, alienating; a new home, new school, new friends, a whole new life. The recently reformed Pedro The Lion, and its main force David Bazan, is in the middle of chronicling a series of such childhood moves and their impact on him throughout his life, which brings us to Havasu, a record about the Bazan family’s one year stay in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, away from David’s birthplace of Phoenix.

From the opening track “Don’t Wanna Move,” his feelings are clear, exactly what you’d expect from any twelve year old suddenly uprooted. Windswept guitars and sparse accompaniment set the scene of the trip north through the Arizona deserts. The album takes us through a year in the life of young David, where he starts seventh grade as a new kid in school, wrestles with young faith inherited from his Pentecostal parents, and seeks a sense of belonging in this new land. Bazan’s talent for straightforward, evocative lyrics shines on this portrait of childhood alienation, with images so clear you could drop right into his shoes. His music, both solo and in Pedro The Lion, has long dealt with his up and down relationship with religion, and here, from his thirty-plus years past perspective, he sees the cracks beginning to form. Even in the deep, heavy places this year traveled, some pivotal positive moments occurred, such as David’s first relationship, a step into adolescence shown in the song “Teenage Sequencer,” and a chronicling of a life-changing musical event, his switch from clarinet to drums, in “First Drum Set.” Here we veer from heartbreak to the most vibrant joy on the record, where David, his saxophone dreams crushed by the band director, discovers the physicality of a new instrument, the one that set him on the path to where he is today. As a drummer myself, I feel this song in my bones.

As the album ends, the Bazans are packing up again, this time headed further west to Santa Cruz. This planned album series, five works chronicling all the places David grew up, serve almost as a collection of letters and dedications to his younger self, an ongoing processing of his youth, what transpired, and what repressions he’s come to excavate. Havasu presents the first big fork in the road, where emotions run wilder and deeper, questions of purpose surface, and habits harden. Retreading old stomping grounds can bring a lot of feelings to the surface, but in David Bazan’s skillful storytelling, I don’t feel afraid, but ready to see what lies ahead in the past, and maybe learn something about myself along the way.

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Evan Miller is a percussionist, lover of sound, and is probably buying too many cassette tapes online right now. Evan got his start in radio in 2012 at WWSU at Wright State University, where he was studying percussion performance. He followed through with both endeavors and eventually landed a lucrative dual career playing experimental music at home and abroad, and broadcasting those sounds to unsuspecting listeners Sunday nights on The Outside. Maintaining a connection to normal music, Evan also plays drums in bands around the area, and hosts WYSO's Midday Music show. When not doing something music-related, Evan is most likely listening to podcasts or watching food videos at home with his cat.