Pedro the Lion Credit: Ryan Russell

In January, Pedro the Lion released their first album in 15 years, Phoenix (Polyvinyl), though in some ways it enjoys that distinction in name only. Anyone who’s followed Pedro the Lion front man David Bazan since the long-running indie-rock group hung it up in 2006 knows that he’s continued to record similarly tender, thoughtful music, often tapping into his extensive network for new collaborators. He’s released this material under a few different names: Headphones, Lo Tom, and (most frequently) his own. But in 2017, Bazan announced plans to bring back his best-known band, and he’s using the resuscitated project to look into the past; Phoenix is the first of what’s allegedly going to be a five-part series of Pedro albums that focus on different places where Bazan lived during his formative years. He’s long been based in the Seattle area, but he spent his first 12 years in Phoenix, Arizona. Now 43, Bazan can recall his life as a six-year-old with great detail and emotional complexity. With thoughtful prose and vulnerable vocal melodies, he navigates the divide between his childhood and his adult self with critical distance as well as empathy—and the band’s driving, lithe performances seem to push toward the future, suggesting that such meditations on the past can fuel critical personal growth in the present. On “Yellow Bike,” Bazan makes revisiting memories of riding his childhood bicycle feel as important as it must have for his younger self to grab those handlebars for the first time.   v