My day job isn’t running this blog, it’s being the editor of my college newspaper. In that job, I have to make a point to keep any and all biases I might have out. Readers, with this blog I have no such duty to avoid bias, and what I have to say about this album comes from a strong bias I have.
I suppose I should explain this bias I have towards this album. It’s an AA Bias if you will. I’m one of those people who will actually tell you an album changed their life. I’m not sure how it found it’s way to my iTunes library, probably from a music swap with friends, but one day Bondy’s softmore album When the Devils Loose started playing. I think I just hit accidentally hit play on my keyboard, and since A.A. is at the top of my iTunes, it started it. I listened all the way through the album.
It was a rainy day in October, I was pretty stressed out and well… the rest is history. From Mightiest of Guns to The Coal Hits The Fire, I really felt the album. I was transported from my dorm room in Edmond, OK to a Scott Bondy’s living room on a Mississippi night.
Music tastes different after you have yourself a nice big bowl of Bondy. He’s so peaceful, and the musicians he brings with him on his albums compliment him well.
So, needless to say, the idea of another album is pretty exciting. I haven’t forgotten about American Hearts, Bondy’s first album on his own, but it didn’t connect with my the way Devils Loose did. Besides, I wasn’t looking for a prequel; I was looking for a sequel.
Believers is the sequel I’ve been searching for.
The album starts strong. The Heart is Willing is one of the strongest tracks I’ve ever heard from Bondy, and it set a tone for the album that my heart understood a couple miles before my head did (I’m measuring that in miles because I since I do most of my “processing” in my car, it makes more sense to track it in terms of distance than minutes).
The ethereal ending to Heart is Willing goes quite before it leads off into Down in a Fire (Lost Sea). The opening riffs of this song are very Explosions in the Sky-ish, not only in sound but also mood. The song is very somber, very reminiscent of a Sunday evening in November after DST has ended. The track ends with about 45 seconds of delay and feedback effects. A bit different from what I’d expect, but it holds the mood and feels alright.
Skull and Bones is the first track I had to go back and listen to again. I normally like to do my first listen to an album all the way through, but I knew I had missed some stuff about the track and had to go back. The sound of the wind whispering, the harmonizing vocals, the light sounds of brushes on drum heads. The song is very cold. Cold like the first day in September when you should have brought a jacket, but you didn’t because technically it’s still Summer and well the low was only going to be 59, cold. It gave me goosebumps.
But here comes the turning point for the album. Bondy gives us a short break with 123 Dupoy Street and then he lays it on us with Surfer King, and boy does he lay it on thick. When the music swells in at about 3:05, you just ride the wave of sweet, sweet guitary goodness like a surfer king (see what I did there?). This is my favorite track on the album, by far. If you haven’t heard it, go listen to it right now over at NPR. It’s okay, I’ll wait.
After the strong swells and high tides, Bondy takes us on the road for Hiway/Fevers. When I close my eyes I imagine being a passanger in a car, hearing sirens, passing cars and just listening to the sounds of the road at night. Close your eyes, open your ears and free your mind. I have to be careful because it kind of feels like I’m going to be sucked into the song.
It’s not a surprise that the song Drmz has some of the most prominent percussion on the album. The song is a lot lower: in tempo, in tonality and in lyrics. Look at this line, “And if I said I believed in you / We still know what you would do/ Through the door into the blue, it burns.” It’s a dark look at life, and it pulls me down a bit, so I’m just going to go to the next song.
The Twist has a very different sound. It sounds more like a hybrid of his older stuff and the softer stuff he did as a part of Verbena. I felt broadsided by this track the first time it came on. It was like a different album started playing. It’s a good track, but it doesn’t feel like a part of this album.
I always get nervous when I hit the title track of an album. What if it sucks? To me, I always assume that an album’s title track is the artist’s favorite song, otherwise why would they call it that? Rt. 28/Believers might be Bondy’s favorite song on the album. I don’t know, I didn’t send him or his representation an email to find. If it is however, it’s a great choice. All the qualities that made The Twist feel weird to me are resolved in Rt. 28/Believers, which is great since Bondy gives us seven glorious minutes of slide guitar and soft drums.
Silly name, serious music. Scenes From A Circus wraps up a brilliant third album. I think Rt. 28/Believers is a good ending in itself, but the gapless nature of these two tracks put together just makes it even better. So what I said a few lines ago about seven minutes of glorious wonder ends up being more like 11. The tempo slows, the end feels close. Bondy gives us a few last lyrics, and then its cue the 17 second fade.
This album is good, real good. I mean The Twist is a bit of a “twist” in terms of how the album feels start to finish, but it’s not a ruiner. It feels like it’s either in the wrong place in the lineup more than it feels out of place for the album itself. Either way, I guess I could say I’m a believer now. An AA Believer. #pleasedontbecomeatrendingtopic #whyamiwritinginhashtags
I hope your ears don’t mind the AA Bias. Ω