Wednesday, Aug. 4; Launchpad (all ages, 7 p.m.): Among the significant number of things David Bazan (a.k.a. Pedro the Lion) does well, it's the ability to keep his audience guessing that seems to best serve him. Where his last two records, particularly 2002's Control, made screeching turns into the cynical and conceptual, the latest Pedro the Lion release, Achilles' Heel (Jade Tree) echoes Bazan's earliest days as a recording artist. He's still quite at home crafting lyrical barbs and carefully implanting them within lo-fi song structures, but on Achilles' Heel, he seems downright pleased to be doing it, which is something of a departure for the often glum-sounding Washingtonian.
Yes, just when many thought they could count on Pedro the Lion to release a melancholy little album every 18 months, Bazan turns around and makes the record of his career—a fabulous collection of songs that sound spontaneous and, thanks in part to the formal induction of longtime Pedro collaborator T.W. Walsh, more completely fleshed-out in some ways than the chapter songs that combined to make up Control. Achilles' Heel isn't overly pop or sugary sweet by any means; it's just Pedro the Lion at his courageous best.