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Every Pedro The Lion/David Bazan Album Ranked Worst to Best

Pedro the Lion is David Bazan, and vice versa. Bazan started the band in 1995 but in 2006 folded the project. But for the next 11 or so years, he continued to put out music under his own name. Then in 2017 brought back the Lion. But it’s always been Bazan, regardless of the name. It’s basically a long on-and-off-again relationship with himself. Thankfully, regardless of whatever the name, he still puts out great music. And sad music. Very sad music. Really can’t stress how sad his music is. Bazan hasn’t been a huge fan of reviews in the past, writing a devastatingly spicy diss track about Pitchfork called “Selling Advertising,” but hopefully he won’t go Kendrick on us. Also, it should be noted that there are some fan-favorite releases of his that are EPs or collections, and this ranking is just old-school, straight-up full-lengths, which is good because you don’t wanna know how low we were gonna rank “The Only Reason I Feel Secure.”

10. Winners Never Quit (2000)

Right off the bat, Bazan has never put out a bad album. And there are some great songs on this concept album about two brothers whose lives go in very different directions. But something about this project feels unfinished. The story itself is great, but maybe it just needed another song or two. What’s kinda funny is when this album came out, people thought “Whoa! This guy is putting out some sad stuff!” And like… yeah, this album is sad. But it’s barely the tip of the Pedro/Bazan sadness iceberg. That said, the album is in between “It’s Hard to Find A Friend” and “Control” and it sounds like it. There is plenty of turn-of-the-century quiet indie stuff, but several songs are straight-up rock songs, which while this may be hard to believe now, was new for Pedro at the time. Back then TVs, phones, and cars were all new gadgets and kids still respected their parents. Now it’s all “Don’t ban TikTok!” and “we want healthcare!” and “genocide: bad!” Kids these days.

Play it again: “Winners Never Quit” and “Never Leave A Job Half Done”
Skip it: “To Protect the Family Name”

9. Havasu (2022)

It’s hard to judge the second part of a 5-part series, especially when the following 3 albums haven’t been released yet. But judging people and things is pretty much all we do here at The Hard Times, so screw it. While Havasu has some great moments, it’s one of the more subtle releases from Bazan in years. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but kind of makes it hard for anything to stand out. The thematic elements of this album are great, and as is the case with every release of Bazan’s since “Achilles Heel,” the vocal performance blows anything from his early era out of the water. But as an album it just kinda drags. The musicality and, as previously mentioned, the vocals are top-notch, so it beats out “Winners Never Quit” but for the modern era of Pedro, this one just can’t beat out the rest of his catalog.

Play it again: “Teenage Sequencer,” “My First Drum Set”
Skip it: “Own Valentine”

8. Blanco (2016)

Before Bazan dropped the Pedro moniker, he dabbled in electronics with the one-off project “Headphones.” It had some promise and a few classic tracks, but in the end kinda felt like Bazan wasn’t sure how to adapt his songwriting to more electronic instrumentation. 11 years later he released “Blanco” under his own name, but honestly this album, and “Care” could easily be considered a continuation of “Headphones.” But unlike “Headphones,” this album shows a Bazan who is confident in his abilities. And he should be. It doesn’t feel like someone grasping for a different sound. Instead, it sounds like a talented songwriter letting the world know his style sounds good even if you’re using keyboards and beep-boop sounds. It also says something about his discography that this album isn’t even in the top 5, because it’s really good.

Play it again: “Trouble with Boys” and “Little Motor”
Skip it: “Little Landslide”

7. Achilles Heel (2004)

At the time, “Achilles Heel” felt downright experimental for Pedro. Which is both the album’s strength and weakness. It has some great songs for sure. But it also is uneven as an album. It’s clear Bazan knew he wanted to move in the direction he did for his solo albums, and because of that this album sorta feels like it’s fighting with itself. Bazan has said he wanted more time to work on this album and it shows. That said, “Bands With Managers” is probably the best vocal performance by Bazan pre-Pedro “breakup,” along with the hauntingly tragic-sounding rock/paper/scissors ending of “Arizona.” He obviously knew the sound he had nailed on “Control” worked for that album but didn’t necessarily need to be repeated ad nauseam for the rest of his career, which is probably one of Bazan’s best qualities. Although if he had just churned out 10 duplicate albums, maybe his music would be in Super Bowl Commercials now. And honestly, I’d love to see Kevin Hart selling car insurance with Bazan’s voice in the background singing about death, divorce and how God isn’t real.

Play it again: “Bands With Managers,” “Arizona,” and “I Do”
Skip it: “Forgone Conclusion”

6. Phoenix (2020)

This album is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s great. And that could just be the review. But on the other hand as the big return of the Pedro moniker, it can feel like it’s missing something. Some oomph maybe? That probably sounds harsh. It shouldn’t though, because this is a great album. The first part of his 5-album series about all the places he lived as a kid, so like “Havasu,” there could be an assumption that if you don’t know/care that much about Bazan or his experience, these albums might not do much for you. Instead, both of the albums, are relatable in the way that all his albums are. The single “Yellow Bike” is a perfect picture of childhood loneliness and how it relates to his loneliness as an adult, and that hits a little to close to home, and we don’t wanna process stuff, so let’s move on. “Circle K” nails the somber childhood realizations of how much this dumbass capitalist system we live in sucks a butt, when all we want is to buy a skateboard but a complete is 100 bucks. Basically, this album takes all the sadness Bazan always writes about and applies it to childhood. Woof.

Play it again: “Circle K,” “Yellow Bike,” and “Piano Bench”
Skip it: “Leaving the Valley”

5. Care (2017)

Sad songs and electronic music. That’s what this album is. And it’s essentially an album of sad-ass bangers. Bazan’s voice lends itself surprisingly well to the electronic sound of the album. It’s honestly kind of surprising something from this album hasn’t blown up on some TikTok video. For real. Maybe we’ll do it. We could use the clicks. I mean, the title track is about friends who are attracted to each other, but make the choice to not cheat on their significant others. That’s like TikTok gold. The chorus of “Up All Night” is about summertime. The kids love that shit. Let’s make this guy, and us, millionaires. Unless TikTok is illegal by the time this comes out. That’d be a bummer. Maybe they should bring back Vine. Remember Vine?

Play it Again: “Care,”“Up All Night,” and “The Ballad of Pedro Y Blanco”
Skip it: “Make Music”

4. Strange Negotiations (2011)

Arguably Bazan’s most “Pedro” album without the “Pedro” moniker, “Strange Negotiations” had the unfortunate task of being the follow-up to “Curse Your Branches.” But instead of a whiff, this album combines all the the best of the first Pedro-era stuff with Bazan’s (at the time) newer explorations of his vocal chops along with more overtly political and cultural commentary. This album also has a feature that we consider kinda unique in that while the first half of the album is good, the last 5 tracks are absolutely untouchable. This album also brings back some heaviness, something Bazan had for the most part, left behind after “Control.” Lyrically it’s probably one of Bazan’s snarkier albums, but in a way that’s somehow incredibly appealing. And finally the last track, “Won’t Let Go” is a surprisingly romantic finale, that while still somber, is a welcome positive way to end an album from a dude that normally likes to kick your heart in the ass at the end of every goddamn one of his albums. Also, there’s a butt on the cover. Butts rule.

Play it again: “Wolves at the Door,” “Eating Paper,” and “Won’t Let Go”
Skip it: “Level with Yourself”

3. Control (2002)

As a concept album, this is pretty great. Probably Pedro’s most famous album, “Control” tells the story of a married hetero couple. And that’s it. It’s super chill and they get along and live happily ever after. JK, this is Pedro the Lion. The husband has an affair, and the wife kills him, and at his funeral, the priest giving the eulogy loses his faith. Neat! This album has some of Bazan’s most overtly crushing lyrics from his career. The opener “Options” has a line from the husband to the wife, “I could never divorce you, without a reason. And though I may never have to, it’s good to have options. But for now, I need you.” Then it’s revealed he’s just thinking it and never says it, as he stares at his wife. That’s the opener. It starts there. Good lord. Probably the most popular song from the album is the heavy, reject anthem “Second Best.” Most likely featured on the mixtape, mix-CD, or playlist you made for the person who turned you down, this over-the-top song would feel absurd if it didn’t kinda nail the awful sinking feeling of being someone’s sidepiece (even if you’re their spouse). The self-loathing hits a high when Bazan brings his voice into the higher register, and suddenly we’re transported back to college, and all the bad choices we made flash before our eyes. Because we really did think they were gonna choose us. And instead, they’re out living their best life, and we’re here reading Hard Times album rankings.

Play it again: “Options,” “Second Best,” and “Priests and Paramedics
Skip it: “Penetration”

2. It’s Hard to Find A Friend (1998)

With everyone shitting their pants over American Football in the last few years, we’re sorta surprised this classic hasn’t also had a resurgence. Because effing A, this album is a portrait of a time and place. And the time is the turn of the century and the place is college dorms. Opening with “Of Up and Coming Monarchs,” the album makes it known right away what this is: a strummy, sometimes noodley, cry-fest with an emotional weight that goes way beyond the immense catchiness of the songs. If you’ve never listened to Pedro/Bazan we’re honestly not sure this is the album to start with, despite the fact that this is essentially the quintessential Pedro album. It’s just so straightforward. It’s like when you see someone who’s so classically good-looking, and you almost wonder “wait… are they NOT hot? Are they actually boring?” But then you realize you’ve been staring at them for like an hour. They’re hot. Just deal with it. And you’ve been listening to this album has been on repeat for 3 hours without even thinking about it. Because this album is hot. I think. I sorta lost the metaphor, but you get it, right?

Play it again: “Of Up and Coming Monarchs,” “The Longest Winter,” “When They Really Get to Know You They Will Run”
Skip it: No Skips

1. Curse Your Branches (2009)

Often referred to as the “Break-up with God Album,” “Curse Your Branches” was Bazan’s first full-length after dropping the Pedro moniker. Bazan was openly a Christian for much of the early part of his career, something that was both mocked and praised for. But at some point prior to the release of this album, he seemed to no longer be part of “the flock.” As a result, this album strongly addresses his feelings about his former religion. But “Curse Your Branches” isn’t some petulant “fuck you, dad!” record. It’s also not some sort of intellectual, scientific takedown of religion. Instead, it’s a personal record with different themes around the realities of life, one of which is “I’m not sure about this whole ‘Christianity’ thing.” The album opener “Hard to Be” has more diverse instrumentation than Bazan had used in his entire career up to that point, but then follows it up with lyrics that pretty much spell out the crisis of faith so many folks who grow up in religion have. Sometimes snarky, sometimes just asking questions, the album takes the sadness that permeates so much of his music and gives it purpose beyond one-off stories or concept albums. It tells the story of a lifetime of disappointment, feeling like one’s upbringing was all based on lies and myths, all ending with Bazan laying out his case to his supposed Creator in the slow but gorgeous “In Stitches.” But this is a comedy site, so… poop, fart, cum!

Play it again: Whole damn thing.
Skip it: No skips