Abby Ohlheiser: A couple years ago, in a small Christian-owned performance space-cum-vintage shop, I listened to David Bazan finish a song, pause, and ask, “anyone have any questions for me?”

Bazan, who was touring with songs from his album about lost faith, Curse Your Branches, fielded earnest theological questions from the young fans sitting cross legged right up close to the stage.  He’d play a few songs, some from the album, some from his old band Pedro The Lion (a mid-2000’s crossover Christian/indie music darling), pause for questions, then keep going.

Earlier this summer, he released a new album, which I just finally got to listen to.  It’s not quite the fists shaking to the sky (and wondering if anything will shake a fist back at you) extended monologue of his earlier album.  It’s political, but personal.  It’s about being a stranger in a familiar land.  He described it this way:

It has a theme that weaves through most of the tunes in it. It has to do with the title. In the wake of the decisions about my life and my belief system that caused me to write Curse Your Branches, there is the uncomfortable remainder of seeing your family all the time and they believe and you don’t… and that’s somewhat common, I’m finding. But maybe more common is the political dissonance that happens between generations. The political dissonance, in general, that you have to co-exist with people who are vehemently opposed on a political level and how you go about that. It’s a record where I, in a vague sense, voice philosophies and ideas that pertain [to politics] and make accusations.

But then, it’s also a record about how you interact with people who think so differently from you in a fundamental way. Do you dismiss them? Do you pretend like you don’t disagree? Do you try not to talk about it? Do you engage respectfully? Do you let your own ideas become watered-down in the process? So the record is asking questions, but it’s not quite so grand as [Curse Your Branches]. The scale that Branches was on for me was personally pretty massive.

Here are the lyrics from Strange Negotiations:

[listen here] 

you blew all your inheritance
and now you’re trying to pin the blame on me
and i could write you off so easily
except a hundred million other people agree
you kick and scream to get your way again
but the writing is on the wall
any minute you’ll go on to your reward
and someone else is gonna make the call
in these strange negotiations
man they really are getting me down
strange negotiations
feel like a stranger in my home town
strange negotiations
you know i’m looking for a way around
all these strange negotiations
you cut your leg off to save a buck or two
because you never consider the cost
you find the lowest prices everyday
but would you look at everything that we’ve lost
yeah it’s true i learned it from watching you
but now it’s you who doesn’t know what a dollar is worth
you got the market it’s own bodygaurd
and all the people are getting hurt