Over the last few years, rather than recording a full-length, traveling troubadour David Bazan casually released new songs on a seven-inch series called Bazan Monthly. Instead of stepping into a studio, he went from house to house across America to perform acoustic versions of his back catalogue during what have become know as his "living room shows." After disappearing in his van somewhere along the I-90, he resurfaced when Barsuk Records announced a new Bazan LP slated for release in May, and though it's comprised of the Bazan Monthly tracks, it's not as disappointing as it sounds.
Blanco is a poignant reflection on the hardships of a touring musician spending most of the year away from his wife and kids. Driving along on the proverbial lonely interstate, he realizes, during "Both Hands," the need to "make up for lost time," lamenting the time at home he's missing in his signature mournful, weathered voice. He confronts mortality on lines like "When I turn around my life's half over" and "Hello again, oblivion," from "With You" and "Oblivion," respectfully, and pays touching, heart-wrenchingly beautiful tribute to his daughter on "Trouble With Boys": "Either way," he croons, "you are worthy of love."
From Pedro the Lion's Control to Strange Negotiations, Bazan has proven himself a master storyteller through his songs, so it's no surprise that he continues his craftsmanship on this latest album. Blanco's most notable difference from other Bazan collections is its sound, which is primarily composed of samples and keyboards. But while fans anticipating the usual rock aesthetic may be disappointed to hear the synthetic wash of "Little Motor" or the programmed drums from "Oblivion," there are plenty of traditional elements if one listens closely: the acoustic guitar work on "Little Landslide," the acoustic drums on "Over Again."
Bazan doesn't disappoint on this mini full-length and though he doesn't wow at first either, Blanco is meditative, and moves more slowly than other entries in the artist's discography. It requires, and deserves, an attentive and patient ear. (Barsuk)