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Phoenix

by Pedro the Lion

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Shaun Peterson
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Shaun Peterson So happy David decided to start doing the Pedro the Lion thing again. His solo stuff is great, but Pedro the Lion is special. A great return to form. Favorite track: Circle K.
Weadee M.
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Weadee M. Man, the storytelling in this album is incredible and I get choked up listening to it every time. Bazan really does a good job of taking you back to the loneliness of childhood Favorite track: Black Canyon.
S. Williamson
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S. Williamson It’s easy to tell yourself you love a band you’ve always loved, but there no reason to lie to yourself about this record. It’s great all on its own. What can we really even say about David Bazan anymore? Besides that his voice is next level and that he is one of the greatest living American songwriters. Favorite track: All Seeing Eye.
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1.
Sunrise 01:01
2.
On a desert Christmas morning 1981 One month shy of six years old In the valley of the sun My first two wheel bicycle stood by the tree My heart thumping in my chest Though I'd tried I couldn't ride one yet Out on our street when my dad let go of the seat I rode off and down the road Somehow I never went back home But I remember what it was like Astride my yellow bike First freedom, second life All the places I could ride Leaving early, packing light That little ache inside My kingdom for someone to ride with Now a highwayman who traded in his handlebars Going back and forth In vans and rental cars On the 10 the 5 the 90 and the 95 In love with every stretch of road But when I drive them on my own They remind me what it was like Astride that yellow bike My kingdom for someone Some folks are loners And you learn from them If you’ve always been a joiner On the move again But if you keep your legs pumping Despite everything Well you can take that sting You can make it swing Just remember what it was like Astride that yellow bike First freedom, second life All the places I could ride Leaving early, packing light That little ache inside My kingdom for someone to ride with I’d trade my kingdom for someone to ride with
3.
Clean Up 02:48
Sitting alone here in my grown up mess I wish I’d known better Weight of the world is bearing down on me Like biblical weather Feels like my destiny to always be A chronic forgetter That sometimes you just have to Clean up, clean up, clean up, clean up clean up, clean up, clean up, clean up your stuff If nobody else has to Clean up, clean up, clean up, your stuff Your lovely head might just be clear enough For getting some work done Or even having yourself some fun I tried eternity and a couple of other drugs Such a romantic place to hide from taking my lumps I still get overwhelmed and think about giving up Til I remember the gospel of Clean up, clean up, clean up, clean up clean up, clean up, clean up, clean up your stuff If nobody else has to Clean up, clean up, clean up, your stuff Your lovely head might just be clear enough For getting some work done Or even having yourself some fun Clean up and we all might get there together If nobody else has to Clean up then we all might get there together If nobody else has to clean up our stuff for us
4.
Little clues half hidden But you can always smell which fruit You really want to bite into With the candle trembling And the wax all down the side You could light your way With what you're desperately trying to hide Now that’s a powerful taboo That's a powerful taboo Hold it in till your heart turns blue That’s a powerful taboo If you can find good vibrations They'll try to tell you That you’re in danger Of falling into temptation It’s the devil’s bargain That to save your soul from hell Deny your senses Be a stranger to yourself Now that’s a powerful taboo That's a powerful taboo Hold it in till your heart turns blue That’s a powerful taboo I refuse to be that separate from The flesh of my own flesh And the blood of my own blood Powerful taboo, powerful taboo Don’t let them take your wits from you That's a powerful taboo That’s a…
5.
Model Homes 03:21
Once church emptied out We lobbied hard To look at track homes’ open houses With our mom and dad Fantasize in the air conditioning Instead of quiet time in my room Where Sunday afternoon felt like a tomb Never not dreaming big Looking at model homes again Tired of where we live Hoping that it’s not if but when Shuffling our shoes on brand new carpet Freeze tag with static electricity Wondering how our lives would be I wanna live with someone else Give them my whole self I wanna not be lonely Never not dreaming big Looking at model homes again Tired of where we live Hoping that it’s not if but when When will the wait be over When will the wait be over
6.
Piano Bench 01:38
At Sunday evening service The faithful knelt in worship Mother singing, swaying Dad piano playing His gentle nature soothed me The ache in her voice moved me Sitting side by side on the piano bench
7.
Circle K 03:34
Got a little allowance from doing chores Saving up for a Santa Cruz skateboard Kid sister said how much have you saved I calculated then hung my head in shame I spent it all at circle K Dreaming it was only pocket change Half a mile astride my yellow bike All the candy and soda pop I liked Windows covering one wall of the store Shelves bathed in the golden hour glow I spent it all at circle k Dreaming that the light would never change I spent it all at circle k And the good Lord smiled and looked the other way
8.
Staving off rejection Which always hurt like hell I took the devil’s bargain Made a stranger of myself If anything was wrong I couldn’t tell So I didn’t see it coming But now it’s pretty clear I traded my own wisdom For a jury of my peers I ignored you for 30 years You don’t have to tell me How hard it must have been For you to let me in Nothing lasts forever Now I understand I hurt you again My quietest friend Fifth grade in the lunchroom Fickle friends were telling jokes Making you the punchline Of some random thing I wrote They were looking to me To land the final blow Just to be included Went straight up to my head I thought the joke too stupid For it to matter what I said I was wrong But I went along with it You don’t have to tell me How hard it must have been For you to let me in Nothing lasts forever Now I understand I hurt you again My quietest friend We could write me some reminders, I’d memorize them I could sing them to myself and whoever’s listening I could put them on a record about my hometown Sitting here with pen and paper I’m listening now
9.
New phone on the seat Fancy rental car Need no directions When you know by heart The low slung houses Between Hilda’s and our old house Driving my favorite route Tracing the grid at night Valley floor incandescent light I’m orbiting North Mountain pretty close For not even half a life The mark she made is wide I never dreamed that I would find Another way home Around the table Aunts and uncles are all there Communicating so animatedly My favorite stories I memorized them all They showed me how I’d always be Tracing the grid at night Valley floor incandescent light I’m orbiting north mountain pretty close For not even half a life The mark she made is wide I never dreamed that I would find Another way home Someone is calling me Someone is following Someone is finally listening
10.
Black Canyon 05:23
Just after midnight Black Canyon Freeway A man, when he could no longer deal, Stepped in front of 18 wheels My uncle Ray was a paramedic One of the first boots on the ground He saw the man beneath the truck in several pieces Obviously gone, time to call for clean up More flashing lights came Cops blocked off the road Ray’s pal from another engine came over with a gallows joke Come on, Ray, we can save him Come on, Ray, we can save him Come on, Ray Ray’s pal went closer to see the broken body Pretty quickly he came back looking queasy Saying Ray, you won’t believe what that man said to me Get this truck off my back Don’t know what I expected but that hurt really bad Where were my people at Coiled up like a rattlesnake waiting to attack Next up the female fire engine driver strolled To see the body solo when Ray declined to go Against her better judgment all her training and her plan She recognized in those pieces a broken hearted man Compartments came apart then Compartments came apart then She gathered herself and crept back to the truck Remembering all of the times she’d nearly given up She had to be twice as human and just as tough She knew it was never enough never enough To get this truck off my back Don’t know what I expected but that hurt really bad Where were my people at Coiled up like a rattlesnake waiting to attack Tell them your stories If you carry them by yourself The gorier the details The more you are alone in hell
11.
My Phoenix 03:24
I memorized the verses And the names of every road Then studying the history Saw how badly things can go I thought you saw it too I swear I learned it all from you But now our home is burning And you don’t have a clue From a disappointed son To the city that he loves The flags you wave around Have got me wondering My Phoenix, My phoenix If my Phoenix still shines If my Phoenix will rise If the vision of the Christ My family sees Is my blurry vision’s Greatest enemy Then I still try to tune it in When I get lonely You know I chase around this desert Because I think that’s where you’ll be Whether high and lifted up Or dust becoming dust Somehow I’m still in love With My Phoenix, My phoenix My Phoenix still shines My Phoenix will rise
12.
If I still say “here I am” When something wakes me up At 4am If I still see desert roads When I close my eyes And long for home If by someone else’s plan Things fall apart again In the promise land Then how can this be goodbye How can this be goodbye All seeing eye The only sky I’ve ever known How can this be goodbye All seeing eye
13.
Leaving the valley In a uhaul loaded down All of our belongings Except for what we left in storage back in town Long desert highway Where the wheels stop No one knows My sister breathing This song playing on the radio How do you stop a rolling stone How will you know You're finally home Finally home How many canyons will you run Before your face warms in the sun In the sun Before you’re finally home Finally home Wish it would rain now Like Hilda always says The devil beats his wife again As the monsoon clouds start rolling in We got our model home But what the Lord gives he can take away Raindrops on windshield As the wipers wave A long goodbye How do you stop a rolling stone How will you know you're finally home Finally home How many canyons will you run Before your face warms in the sun In the sun Before you’re finally home Finally done running Oh Dunlap/ Oh Peoria Oh Cactus/ Oh Thunderbird Oh Greenway/ Oh Bell rd Oh Union Hills & 35th ave Oh Union Hills & 35th ave If I swung my tassel To the left side of my cap After graduation Will there be no going back

about

Pedro the Lion has always been David Bazan, but it took a long time to get back there.


In August 2016, during what he now recognizes as his lowest point, Bazan was touring the country alone in an aging minivan and found himself in his hometown of Phoenix, AZ. In need of a break from the road, he spent a night off at his grandparents’ house instead of driving on to San Diego. Before leaving town the next morning, after realizing that even the most familiar places can become unrecognizable, Bazan gave himself the gift of a quick detour past the house he grew up in, and on the way, experienced a breakthrough - one that would lead him both forward and back to another home he had built many years before.

From the beginning, Pedro the Lion didn’t work like the bands Bazan had played drums in, where each player came up with their own parts. Instead, like scripting scenes of dialogue for actors to play with, Bazan recorded and arranged all of the skeletal accompaniments for his obsessively introspective lyrics and spare melodies. Each player would then learn their parts and, together as a band, they brought the skeleton to life. While bandmates played on a few recordings, Bazan often played all or most of the instruments himself.

“I found so much joy working this way,” Bazan remembers. “It came naturally and yielded a feeling and a sound that couldn’t have existed by any other process. At the same time, I was also aware that not everyone wanted to play in a band where the singer wrote all the parts and might perform them on the record. Someone even suggested it might not be a valid approach to having a band in the first place. Being insecure and wanting to find camaraderie, I became conflicted about my natural process.”

By 2002, after recording Control, the high rate of turnover in the band finally caused Bazan to ditch his “natural process” in favor of a collaborative writing process. When, after a couple more years, this move did nothing to stabilize turnover, Bazan was perplexed. In November 2005, Bazan decided to stop doing Pedro the Lion altogether.

Ironically, Bazan didn’t see “going solo” as a chance to revert back to his original process of writing and playing all the parts. For the next decade Pedro the Lion felt off limits, even forgotten, like a childhood home Bazan had moved out of. He pushed forward with releasing solo albums & relentless touring in living rooms and clubs, through every part of the US and beyond, sometimes with a band, but mostly on his own. It took a toll on his family and more acutely on himself. By the summer of 2016, he still hadn’t found the personal clarity or the steady collaboration he’d been seeking and was at the end of his rope.

“I had abandoned my natural way of working in the hopes of creating space for a consistent band to write with...and it hadn’t worked. So I got a rehearsal space, mic’d up drums, bass, and guitar, and really leaned into my original process again. It immediately felt like like home. Before long I realized it also felt like Pedro the Lion.”

In June 2018, with Bazan on bass, vocals, and arrangement writing, Erik Walters on guitar and backing vocals, and Sean Lane on drums, Pedro the Lion went into Studio X and Hall of Justice with producer Andy Park to create Phoenix, the first new Pedro album in 15 years.

The songs themselves are the result of mining your past for who you are now. On opening track “Yellow Bike,” Bazan encapsulates a core ache he’s been exploring since 1998’s It’s Hard to Find a Friend with the line:

My kingdom
For someone to ride with

Phoenix also deals with having to be better to yourself in order to be better to others on “Quietest Friend,” and harkens back to Control’s “Priests and Paramedics” with a story about EMTs facing a gruesome scene, and storytelling as coping mechanism, on “Black Canyon.” It bears witness to both what was around and what was inside, with the signature kindness and forgiveness that lightens Pedro the Lion’s darkest notes.

The result is a twisting, darkly hopeful introspection into home and what it means to go back, if you ever can. It is rock and roll wrapped in tissue paper, its hard edges made barely soft. Every melody is careful, a delicate upswing buoyed by guitar lines that hold each tender feeling together like string before ripping them apart to see what’s inside. It is an ode to the place he still loves despite how alien it can appear to him now. It is the story of a life from the beginning, but not a linear one. This life is a circle, and Phoenix goes back to that first point, to show that when we are looking for home we’ll eventually run into it again, whether it’s in the desert, in a rehearsal space, or on a stage.

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released January 18, 2019

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