Album review: "Believers"
With the release of his third solo album, "Believers," A.A. Bondy has decidedly stepped out of the singer-songwriter/folk genre into something approaching minimalism and electronica. With no pop gems harnessing the album, the music is slow and steady, creating a hypnotic and sleepy vibe in which the songs don't so much end as melt into the ether.
The album begins with "The Heart Is Willing" and 34 seconds of a simple drum beat, a bellwether of what's ahead. Bondy eschews the three-minute pop song for languid, longer songs - the longest of which, "Rte. 28 Believers," is nearly seven minutes.
The whammy bar effect dominates the guitar sound, bending the notes throughout, especially on such songs as "Down in the Fire (Lost Sea)" and "Highway/Fevers," and it is instrumental in creating the lazy, blurring mood. Such songs as "Drmz" and "Rte. 28 Believers" are beautiful, thoughtful and dark, and Bondy's vocals are so lovely it hurts. The simplicity of "Surfer King," with its clean, telecaster guitar sound, evokes an easy summer day.
Yet the songs often lack the energy to make them memorable. Bondy gives the listener a taste of where the music can go, but he doesn't follow through. The album does give an indication of where Bondy could go. If he combines the pop sensibilities of his earlier albums with the ideas of "Believers," then his best is yet to come.
--Moira E. McLaughlin, Nov. 18, 2011