“Surfer King” – A. A. Bondy
Almost achingly beautiful in a muted and weary kind of way, “Surfer King” finds A. A. Bondy exploring the same sort of atmospheric singer/songwriter sound as he was the last time he was here, in 2009, for the brilliant “When the Devil’s Loose.” No reason to mess with a good thing.
“Surfer King” sways and hesitates; it seems already to sit in your memory, blurred by reverb and bending under the quaver of a pedal steel played for its own sake, rather than to align with the cliched notion of what a pedal steel should sound like. And can I stop for a moment to register the minor but persistent pet peeve of how music bloggers so often hear a pedal steel and call the song country-ish or country-flavored or some such thing? This song has nothing to do with country music (not that there’s anything wrong with that, either). It’s got a pedal steel. But I digress. Bondy in any case seems to have found his sweet spot, having gone from lead singer in a grunge band to a stripped down, early-Dylan-esque troubadour before settling into this pensive, purposeful setting featuring a few well-placed instruments and his reflective baritone. This song is so sturdy, its melody so delicate and true, that the chorus slays us while focusing almost exclusively on two notes, one whole step apart.
“Surfer King” is from Believers, Bondy’s third album as a solo artist, released this month on Fat Possum Records. Bondy was born in Alabama and works from upstate New York. For the excessively curious, A. A. stands for Auguste Arthur.
One thought on “Free and legal MP3: A. A. Bondy (muted, weary beauty)”
I enjoyed your comment regarding instrumentation implying genre. Usually the lazy assessment accompanies “it all sounds the same.” Mantovani sounds the same as Polenc, right? Most people simply capture a mental snapshot of a performer or performance and decide whether he/she/it casts the proper connotation of personal identity for the observer/listener. Classical implies “classy.” Smooth jazz gets the girl every time because it reflects that certain sexy, laid back approach. Strummin’ and sangin’ is for the uncomplicated, pure, and Godly. Loud, banal confrontation appeals to the ignored and otherwise alienated. Music concrete’ supports a belief in obtuse intellectualism and chaos theory. And don’t even get me started on fashion and music. All I’m suggesting is that our collective auditory response is becoming more conditioned than ever on how we place ourselves socially. It’s almost Pavlovian. Why spend more than a few seconds to make a note of how the performer/presentation comports with your viewpoint and what you want to project, then move on? Do people ever take time to review what really makes a piece thrilling to them, or are we so affixed to ideas of quickly-determined and superficial identity that most critical thought has been left far behind?