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Album Review: A.A. Bondy – Believers

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On his 2009 breakout album and second LP, When the Devil’s Loose, A.A. Bondy proved he could create solid, stirring folk blended with rootsy Americana, summoning warm instrumental hospitality with its robust, sepia-tinged songs. Two years later, Bondy returns with Believers, a more atmospheric, introspective, and ethereal album than the title might belie.

Bondy’s once familiar waltzing rhythms and comforting, soulful ballads are inverted into chilled and heavy tracks. Believers’ 10 cuts bleed into one another in a seamless portrait of seclusion, slow burning in a gray splendor made beautiful in Bondy’s capable hands. Opener “The Heart is Willing” begins with a jarring tone, pulsing into a ghostly preface to a fog-laden album. The subsequent sharp, chiming chords and subtle notes of discord grab your attention just as “Down in the Fire (Lost Sea)” steadies the album to a dream pace. Bondy uses the weathered attributes of his voice to its best ability, mirrored instrumentally by swelling feedback and subdued ambient noises– the ebb and flow of surf on “Skull & Bones” and the echoing thaw of pedal steel on “Highway/Fevers”.

Standout track and bright spot “Surfer King” is a return to the Bondy formula: steady, allegorical, and centered on the peaceful sensation of nature. “The Twist” skirts around the image its name might conjure and casts a brooding tone of gathering storm clouds, with Bondy crooning a desire to be “far away from the world.” “Scenes from a Circus” bubbles up from “Rte. 28/Believers”, capping off the landscape ambiance that the entire album portrays: isolated, subtly ruminating, and yet oddly placid. As Believers closes, its preternatural aftertaste urges several re-visits to its dark, wandering recesses. With Believers, A.A. Bondy unveils his most developed and enthralling effort, a natural companion to the coming cloudy months.

Essential Tracks: “Surfer King”, “Scenes from a Circus”, “The Twist”

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