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A.A. Bondy's 'Enderness' Searches For New Ways To Sing The Blues

A.A. Bondy's <em>Enderness</em> comes out May 10.
Courtesy of the artist
A.A. Bondy's Enderness comes out May 10.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Bandcamp playlist at the bottom of the page.

Auguste Arthur Bondy has already experienced two distinct careers in the music business. First, as Scott Bondy, he was lead singer of Verbena, a slick Alabama post-grunge band whose major-label debut was produced by Dave Grohl all the way back in 1999. Then, after that project flamed out a few years later, he recast himself as A.A. Bondy and reoriented his sound around bluesy, haunted folk. The A.A. Bondy of 2007's American Hearts and 2009's When the Devil's Loose was a red-eyed, raw-boned rambler, always half a step ahead of his demons and the consequences they carry.

Now, Bondy has shifted his approach again — albeit more subtly this time around — as he enters Phase 3 of a career that remains worthy of far greater recognition. On Enderness, his first album in eight years, he channels his eternal weariness into evocative blurs of languid, hypnotic sound that help form a kind of ambient blues music. Hints of that evolution can be heard on its predecessor, 2011's Believers, but Enderness takes the next logical step — and even closes with a smeared-out instrumental sound bath worthy of Stars of the Lid.

Naturally, the richer instrumentation has a way of clouding Bondy's lyrical intentions, often in alluring ways. In "Diamond Skull," his words play out as a series of nondescript, creepy and/or lightweight modern missives — from "OMG" and "LMFAO" to bits of celebrity gossip, meme-speak and song lyrics — but add up to something more unsettling and (as might be expected by now) fatalistic. And, as its name suggests, "Fentanyl Freddy" tells a tale of crippling drug addiction, set amid a hazily buoyant arrangement that only deepens the sense of foreboding. After all, for all the ways it shifts, obscures and advances Bondy's sound, Enderness feels most of all like a restless search for new ways to sing the blues — a worthy mission for a man born to do it.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)