As morose and hopeless as ever, indie-rock Jesus-follower David Bazan (the key songwriter and only permanent member of Pedro the Lion) has crafted another stunning, despondent record with Achilles' Heel. Fairly unique among indie and emo whiners, Bazan is a devout Christian. But rather than preach a clean lifestyle or dedicate his music to his savior, Bazan's songs are about questioning and challenging his faith. He mentions the Devil and the Lord on Achilles' Heel, but there's also plenty about drinking and carrying on. On one song, he even uses the word "fuck," rare for fragile emo songwriters and Christian musicians alike.
Elliott Smith, in his time, wrote some very sad songs. Lou Barlow and Mac McCaughan of Superchunk also managed to convey their wussy feelings about girls in a sometimes heart-rending fashion. But Bazan takes despair a step further with his songs about death, decay and hopelessness, sung in a slow moan with plenty of feeling and misery delivered with each word. "Transcontinental" is a song about a paralyzed man who has his legs amputated. It's kind of a downer. In the exquisite "I Do," a woman contemplates how her marriage has caused her to bury her dreams and live vicariously through her son. And "Forgone Conclusions" is the only upbeat song -- not quite, though. There's still a sad undercurrent in Bazan's voice that he probably couldn't rid himself of if he wanted to.
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Unlike so many sensitive emo dudes, such as Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional, who cause their teenybopper fans to weep with the sappiest lyrics, Bazan's mature compositions on Achilles' Heel aren't simply about being dumped by some girl with bangs and horn-rimmed eyeglasses. These tunes go deeper, and the result is quite lovely.