The Black Heart Procession's fourth full-length album marks an ambitious departure, and not just because it's the band's only LP with a proper title (the first three were dubbed 1, 2 and 3). In the past, scenesters seemed unable to breathe the San Diego group's name without dwelling on vocalist and songwriter Pall A. Jenkins' depression, not to mention the dreariness of the music.
With Amore del Tropico, however, the Procession offers a stunning range of styles and moods -- as well as its usual smorgasbord of strange saws, strings and organs. "Did You Wonder" is downright energetic, while "Tropics of Love" and "Broken World" combine Latin percussion with swinging melodies. Songs like "Sympathy Crime" and "The Visitor" suggest that Jenkins and company have been consuming healthy portions of Pink Floyd albums, particularly the oddly compelling Animals.
There's also plenty of vintage BHP gloom. "The Invitation" showcases a spooky piano, while the album's closer, "The One Who Has Disappeared," could stand as sorrowful cowboy music. "A Cry for Love" is a cleverly composed lounge number that's both sultry and mournful. Unfortunately, some of the sadder songs recall past bad habits. The rather monotonous melodies of "Broken World" and "A Sign on the Road" cause the album to drag, and some of Jenkins' lyrics suffer from being too literal. (Naming a song "Tropics of Love" is a bit hokey on its own, but making that phrase one of the song's oft-repeated lines is even more dangerous.)
Still, Amore del Tropico shows an incredible amount of maturation from the Black Heart Procession. On this record, the band finally proves that it's possible to be decidedly morose and highly eclectic.