Interview with Berklee Online 3

Here is the final installment from the Berklee online interview series that I did with them. This one talks about my approach to transcribing parts and learning proper orchestration.

Interview with Berklee Online 2

Here is the second in a series from Berklee Online, where they interviewed me on my work. This video focuses on my approach to arranging music.

Interview with Berklee Online 1

Hey Guys,

I was recently interviewed by Berklee School of Music on my writing, composing, arranging and more. Here is the first video in a series they recently released:

Joining the Rock Lottery

99-atlgHey Everyone,

I will be joining a bunch of other Seattle musicians for a day of helping raise money for the Creative Advantage.  Here is a ton of information about this amazing event, and how you could help contribute to help Seattle music, and this wonderful charity.


10:00AM – 25 Musicians… 10:00PM – 5 Bands.
The Crocodile (2118 2nd Ave, Belltown)
Saturday, February 7, 2015
A Benefit for The Creative Advantage
Doors open at 9pm, show starts promptly at 10pm
$10 advance / $15 at door (21+)

The Rock Lottery is simple, but effective. Twenty-five hand-picked musicians meet at 10:00AM at the evening’s performance venue. These volunteers are organized into five bands through a lottery-based chance selection. The five groups are released to practice at different locations. The musicians have twelve hours to agree upon a band name and create three to five songs (with a one cover song limit). The bands then return to the venue and perform what they have created in front of a waiting audience.

The twenty-five musicians included in this experiment are carefully selected in an attempt to represent a wide variety of musical styles. This event will bring together many facets of the music community that may seem incompatible, as well as musicians whose interests may conflict. The challenge for these participants is to go beyond their personal and musical differences and work together to create a unified group project that still contains the personal styles of each of its members.

Confirmed participants include:
Erin Austin, OK Sweetheart
Adra Boo, Fly Moon Royalty
Lace Cadence, The Flavr Blue
Kate Finn, Katie Kate
Robert Gomez, Ormonde
Nikolay Grachev, Juliana & PAVA
Gretta Harley, These Streets, We Are Golden
Andrew Joslyn, Passenger String Quartet
Stormi King, Shorthand for Epic, Skates!
Greg Kramer, Macklemore& Ryan Lewis, Pyramid, Ocean Spray Horns
Whitney Lyman, Pollens, Quiet Nights
Josh McClung, PICO BLVD
Arran McInnis, LESBIAN, Fungal Abyss
Terri Moeller, The Walkabouts, Transmissionary Six
Tomo Nakayama, Grand Hallway
John Ramberg, The Tripwires, The Model Rockets
Kelton Sears, Kithkin
Adrian Van Batenburg, Gems, Ganges River Band
Anna Vo, Anna Vo
Selena Whitaker-Paquiet, NighTraiN, Chocolate Fruit
+5 tba

The Seattle Rock Lottery is a benefit, with all proceeds going to The Creative Advantage. The Creative Advantage is dedicated to restoring access to the arts for all students in Seattle Public Schools, and is committed to providing culturally relevant arts learning that foster skills such as creativity, critical thinking, communication, and more. Partners include Seattle Public Schools, The Office of Arts & Culture, and Seattle local teaching artist and community arts organizations. To learn more about The Creative Advantage,

The musicians chosen to participate are unpaid volunteers. The participants are chosen by the Rock Lottery participant committee with suggestions from past Rock Lottery participants and other members of Seattle’s music community.
Additional information can be found on the Facebook Event  page or buy tickets from Ticketfly

A Fiendish Conversation with Andrew Joslyn – by Seth Sommerfeld (featured in SeattleMet)


As one of Seattle’s preeminent singer-songwriters, David Bazan’s career as a solo artist (and Pedro the Lion frontman) has been less about tugging on heartstrings and more about drenching them in sorrow. But there’s always been a beauty in his sad-sack lyricism. That delicate side gets pushed to the forefront, thanks to his new collaboration with the local players of the Passenger String Quartet led by Andrew Joslyn. Since its formation in 2011, the Passenger String Quartet has brought its classical accompaniment touch to the contemporary Seattle music scene and Joslyn has collaborated with the likes of Macklemore, Allen Stone, Suzanne Vega, Kris Orlowski, Duff McKagan, and Mary Lambert. This Friday, November 21, David Bazan and the Passenger String Quartet head to the Neptune Theatre to close out their tour in support of the newly released David Bazan and the Passenger String Quartet: Volume 1.

For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we chatted with Joslyn about fitting his arrangements to the acts he accompanies, somehow making Bazan songs sadder, and the disorientation of playing arenas with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

How did you initially get connected with David Bazan?

Back in 2012 in Tacoma there was a Cathedrals show that Aaron Stevens was putting on and the Passenger String Quartet was hired to back all three bands that were playing that evening. It was a Pretty Broken Thing, Kevin Sur, and David Bazan was headlining. I had already written arrangements for the first two bands and then Aaron reached out to me and was like hey you should see about doing arrangements for David and see if that’s possible. And he was kinda like the go-between and fostered that. I gave a call to David while I was on tour—he was in the middle of a living room tour— and we just kind of hit it off and started talking about how to go about the process.

At first he was a little skeptical about the whole thing, because he was like, “Well, working with strings is kind of hit or miss. You don’t really know what you’re in for.” But I sent him rough drafts of the arrangements and he was just like, “I’m sold, let’s do it.” So we played the show and were really excited about the crowd response and just overall… I dunno, there was a synergy and a magic in the air after we played the show. And we set about making a record.

When composing arrangements for songs that are already written, what are you listen for in order to find spots that you can insert orchestration?

It always depends on the project. For me, first of all I look for harmonies that are implied that are not fully fleshed out. Sometimes if they are playing a full chord then it’s like, “Well maybe there are some interesting tensions that can be thrown on top, or sevenths, ninths, and whatever to make it sound fuller. For certain songs, if I want it to have that kind of unsettling feel, then I throw in those really bizarre notes, like interesting jazz chords or substitution stuff.

When I arrange there are two ways I do it: Either I will sit down and notate out melodies that come to my head as I’m listening to it originally or I’ll notate out original stuff that is already there. For example, from the original Pedro the Lion recordings there are certain melodies and baselines that are so idealic that you can’t write without them. For me, I was a huge Bazan fan beforehand, so the work actually was muchmore difficult this time around than with other projects because I already had a very set idea in my head about these recordings. Listening to “Priests and Paramedics” or like “Bands with Managers,” it’s like, I knew them so, so specifically in a certain way.

On top of additional harmonies and stuff, I’ve been an improvising violinist and viola player for a really long time so sometimes I’ll just essentially let the violin speak for me. It’s kind of a weird way of putting it. I’ve been playing the violin since I was five, and sometimes melody lines and interesting chords will come out just letting the music speak for itself and just standing aside.

Are the songwriters you collaborate with generally receptive to you arrangements or do they push back?

Thankfully, I’ve had a really good track record with all of the artists that I’ve worked with. With the arrangements that I’ve sent to David, like 95 percent of the time it was on the mark. But I also make sure I do my research and I make sure I sit down and talk with the artist before I even touch anything. And just be like, “Do you want me to go off the page and just do whatever I want, or do you really have a specific idea?” There are certain artists that are very controlling of their art and they’ll very much be like, “I have this melody line. I don’t know how to write it out, but can you write it for me?” I don’t want to just throw my own stamp on the whole thing and just shit on the original, that wastes my time and it wastes theirs. I feel like I’m sensitive enough to the artists and I also take enough time and care with writing new melodies. Something else is I make sure that I don’t step around on vocals, because that’s reallyimportant. I always make sure it ducks out when there are really important lines or choruses. I make sure there is stuff that is either complimentary or it’s taken a back seat to the song.

That was one of the things that I noticed about this record. On certain tracks, I was like, “I didn’t know that this song could be any more melancholy… but now it is.”

Yeah. “Priests and Paramedics,” we took the bleakness of it and just drove it into the ground. And as I was writing it, I remember distinctly, I was weeping (incoherent weeping sounds). Essentially, I took one melody line and made it into a canon for the verses. How much more bleak can you get? (Laughs)

What made you want to focus on working with contemporary artists instead of taking a more traditional, classical route?

When I was in college I completely had a fallout with classical music. I had been doing classical music since I was five years old, so I was really entrenched in the system: I was doing the master classes, I was applying to grad schools for performance. And it got to the point where… I didn’t like the politics, I didn’t like the egos involved, and I didn’t want to be an orchestra drone—that was the bottom line. I got so disillusioned with it that I quite classical music in college and joined a rock band. My whole thing is the music that really moved me and really got my blood pumping was rock and hip-hop and all this contemporary music. But I still have all this training and all this love for classical music, just not the culture itself. And then it slowly, after touring for a long time and completely going off the beaten path away from classical music, it is really bizarre that all of a sudden it is completely coming full circle now. Now there is the Passenger String Quartet that I am leading and all the arranging and orchestral writing that I’m doing is fully taking on all those influences, but applying it in a contemporary context. Now I feel like I have a reinvigorated love for classical music, because now I can see how much power it has in these other mediums.

What was the name of your band in college?

The first band I was a part of was this group called Handful of Luvin’, it was out of Bellingham, Washington. It was an Irish rock band, kind of like Dropkick Murphys meets Dave Matthews. (Laughs)


I also met Kris Orlowski in college and we started collaborating and doing a lot of work together. Through gigging so much and being an avid session player in Seattle, I networked my way through all these different artists in Seattle and elsewhere.

Do you have any post-show routines?

It changes from tour to tour, I’ve been finding that after a performance, especially with this tour, it can get so emotionally overwhelming. The last song that we play is “Strange Negotiations” and it clings to you emotionally and always puts me in a weird mood. I always give myself like a good ten minutes; just not talk to anybody and be a recluse. Like I need to process emotionally what just happened. It’s almost like a little meditation post-show that I need to do just to be back in the real world.

It’s kind of the same thing when I was touring with Macklemore. When you play in a crowd of 35,000 people, you need to reacclimate yourself to real life because when you’re out there, performing in that context, it’s so weird and it’s a lot to take.

Are there any up-and-coming local musicians that you think people should check out?

I know she’s been getting a little bit of buzz, but I really like the music of Prom Queen, Celene Ramadan. I’ve already been talking to her about doing a collaboration on a song, but I love her ability to take a whole era of music and really encapsulate it in her live show and her visuals. She just put out a full album of music videos.

Two other artists we’ve been listening on the road with Bazan. One is Chris Staples, he just got put out by Barsuk. American Soft is a really good album. And Andy FittsSmokey Wilds. Beautiful albums, and really I don’t think a lot of people know about them.

Those were both Albums of the Month over here at Seattle Met. So we’re at least familiar with them.

(Laughs) Rad. Well that’s perfect. That’s the thing that is funny, I think the general populace has certain things that they’ll catch wind of and they’ll either grab onto or they won’t. There are certain artists out there that might not be making waves but they are making really beautiful, influential music.

Anything else that you’d like to add?

We’re working on our debut album. I think that we’re going to have Erik Blood produce it. Because I don’t want to have a classical album, I want to have classical arrangements, but I really want something very different.

So that will be comprised of your own compositions?

Yeah, that’s something huge that I want to take on. I want to start writing original work because we’ve done so much collaboration as a group. I think it’s important that we now start putting together our own stuff. I’m really excited, but it’s also an interesting challenge for me.




Sunday, January 18, 2015
3:30 – 4:30 pm

Frye Galleries


To start off the new year, the Passenger String Quartet is debuting a brand new composition by NW composer Byron Au Young at the Frye Art Museum.  For more information on this upcoming performance, please take a look at the following link:


Here is the description for the event:

On the occasion of the exhibition Pan Gongkai: Withered Lotus Cast in Iron, the Frye Art Museum commissioned a new work by Seattle composer Byron Au Yong (歐陽良仁) titled MO SHENG 墨声: INK SOUND.

In the galleries of the Museum, surrounded by the ink paintings of Pan Gongkai, Andrew Joslyn and the Passenger String Quartet will perform the light, ordinary, heavy, and charred textures of the composition created in response to those very paintings. MO SHENG 墨声: INK SOUNDrelates the simplicity and density of sound to the amount of ink on a brush and translates this exhibition with a local resonance.

Byron Au Yong has a complex relationship with China. He composes songs of dislocation that have been performed in venues that range from abandoned railroad tracks to the Tokyo Art Museum. Rcent highlights include original music for The Orphan of Zhao 趙氏孤兒 (American Conservatory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse), Occupy Orchestra 無量園 Infinity Garden (Chicago Composers Orchestra) and Stuck Elevator(American Conservatory Theatre, International Festival of Arts & Ideas). Previous works include Farewell: A Fantastical Contemplation on America’s Relationship with China (Spectrum Dance Theater), Ji Mo 寂寞: The Stillness of Solitude (Portland Taiko), Piao Zhu 飄竹: Flying Bamboo (Seattle Asian Art Museum), and Yiju 移居: Songs of Dislocation (Jack Straw New Media Gallery, Present Sounds Records). Au Yong lives in Seattle.

DB + PSQ Show Review (Asheville, NC)



The David Bazan and Passenger String Quartet show/tour received a glowing review recently from our show at the Grey Eagle in Asheville, North Carolina.  Read the full review below, or here:

“While there have been cellos and violins (and probably even the odd viola or two) on The Grey Eagle stage before, it’s possible that they’ve never been played with quite the breathless splendor of Andrew Joslyn’sPassenger String Quartet. That group, led by violinist and arranger Joslyn, with cellist Rebecca Chung Filice, Seth May-Patterson on viola and violinist Alina To, has backed the likes of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Suzanne Vega and DJ Spooky. On Saturday, they played with singer-songwriter David Bazan (of Pedro the Lion and Headphones) on a set of songs Bazan said will be retired after this tour.

“The thing about strings is that they elevate everything, underscoring each verse with emotive elegance and promoting decent song craft to resonant poetic genius. Then again, Bazan’s songs are good to begin with — pithy, brutal, funny and human. “Deep green hills whose shoulders fade into thick grey / Tall wet grass whose flesh makes fools of grazing sheep / Whose fleecing makes a fool of me / Who shall I blame for this sweet and heavy trouble for every / stupid struggle I don’t know,” he sings on “The Fleecing.” That song’s moody opening morphed into a soft pastoral with layered textures from bowing, plucking and Bazan’s own guitar strumming.

“It was Joslyn who initiated the project, arranging four of Bazan’s songs. The end result, lush and at once weighty and transcendent, comes off like a true commitment to art — seeing a project through to its final result. Because of course it would be enough for the Passenger String Quartet to be a chamber music group and for Bazan to be a singer-songwriter without ever cross-pollinating. And yet, to the boon of luckily listeners, they took that next step.

“On “Wolves at the Door,” Bazan played a small synthesizer, adding percussive samples and grounding the high, eerie keen of the violin. “How I Remember” was all drama and sentiment; while “I Do” layered warm tones.

“Every few songs, while turning his guitar, the house lights went up and Bazan took questions from the crowd. Like his songs, he’s open, genial, irreverent and humorous. When asked if playing with Passenger String Quartet changed how he wrote songs, Bazan replied, “I don’t know how I write songs. If you scrub hard enough, the dish comes clean. But I don’t understand the mechanics of it.” And to a question about how he cares for his vocal chords he answered, “The only thing I’ve found is to get eight hours of sleep a night and drink a gallon of water every day, but I haven’t been doing the water part.”

“In fact, Bazan’s voice is far from that of the pitch-perfect, smooth-edged soloists who usually perform with classical ensembles. A wooly growl in his lower register and breaking on the high notes, Bazan’s vocal was perfect in its imperfection. The rough edge of his voice against the vibrant and sweeping canvas of the strings felt like a revelation — an exercise in textural and emotional juxtaposition.

“And ultimately, that was the culmination the collaboration: fresh takes on both chamber music and songwriter fair. Sometimes the strings reflected the temperamental pitch of the songs, other times they served as sonic architecture on which Bazan could build and explore with melody and poetry. From start to finish, it was an adventure worth taking.”

-Alli Marshall (Mountain Xpress)

DB + PSQ Tour Diary 1

2014-10-15 10.55.56I woke up this morning in Fort Stockton, Texas.  The Super 8 Motel room’s air was cool, and smelled faintly of dried vomit (by-product of a previous tenant). Our cockroach companion still lay cooling himself in the porcelain tub, where we left him last night.  I couldn’t stop thinking about him for an hour as I was falling asleep last night – between dreaming that my bedsheets were infested with a swarm of cockroaches, or that I was transforming into a 5 foot bug myself (in Kafka ‘Metamorphosis’ style), I had a hard time letting myself drift off. Despite all these seemingly grotesque conditions, I fell asleep and woke up this morning, distinctly happy and satisfied.

Currently I’m on tour with my group, the Passenger String Quartet, which is performing alongside David Bazan (founder of Pedro the Lion, Headphones, etc.) in support of our newest album release, “David Bazan and the Passenger String Quartet: Vol. 1.” We’ve been on the road for roughly one week so far – we started off rolling down the west coast: Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and then Phoenix. We are heading to Austin now, rolling through the flat and hot Texan countryside. We’ve already travelled over 2,200 miles so far, and we have another 5 1/2 weeks to go on the road.  I’ve been using the extra free time in the van to write additional compositions for new music that Bazan has been putting out, with his Bazan Monthly’s – which it helps keep me sane, and feeling productive during the downtime.

It’s hard to imagine that this is now my full-time job – being a musician that is – well being a musician, working with my musical idols, and sharing my own art/writing with the world.  It’s a struggle like any other job, with it’s ups and downs.  Unfortunately the downs are always about money. Just worrying about sustaining a dream.  Thankfully, with a tour like this one – it is utterly amazing, and hard to have a bad time.  Bazan is a touring veteran and workhorse – his own touring schedule takes him the circumference of the United States at least four times a year.  So he runs a tight ship, which is professional, laid back, and also fun. Our touring sound engineer is Chris Colbert, who toured with the Walkmen, Sufjan Stevens, and more for years, so the musical history and experience that we are surrounded by is deep and rich.

While in the van, I read earlier this week a post on Facebook from one of my fellow musicians in Seattle.  They candidly opened up about their struggles with the state of the industry, the impact it had on their own music making, and that they were considering not putting out any more music.  This was a little bit of a shock – since I occasionally get these pangs of doubt, and wonder if a day job would provide the comfort, and consistency that sometimes I wish a career in music could provide. It is possible for sure – it’s just hard, and takes grit.  I felt for them, and could genuinely relate.  It isn’t easy to make a living off art. Check out Elizabeth Renzetti’s article about Iggy Pop, and his struggle with making money now.

Unfortunately there are so many social misconceptions and myths that envelop a career in music today. Paid work with a company/employer is seen as purposeful by the general community, whilst arts activities are not regarded as having any real purpose.  Arts and music education in the States has been battling with this for years.   Whilst consumers in society may value a beautiful marble sculpture, a rare violin,  a recording of Thelonious Monk, a Chagall painting, it does not have the same purpose as something as mundane as a microwave. Art, in this case can be done without, but the microwave cannot – it has a specified purpose.  So sometimes with music, I wonder… what is the purpose?

From the point of view of the general populace, the word ‘artist’, or ‘musician’ conjures a vision of a temperamental romantic, leading a carefree life – a bohemian unencumbered by the mundane constraints that beset the ordinary wage-earner. This is partly true to a degree, but I feel that a healthy dose of professionalism, work ethic, and business acumen is really important for a sane, full, and long career.  But even then, there isn’t necessarily any guarantee of success.  The music industry also isn’t a meritocracy – there are plenty of terrible artists who are making it – at least for the extent of their 15 minutes of fame.  However one of the damaging myths that comes from this situation, is that you have quick overnight success stories of untested, naive, and young artists who are getting global renown. Look at the general model of American Idol, X Factor, the Voice… a misconception that I think arises from this, is that the general community believes that the rise to fame is relatively easy, and doesn’t take a lot of hard work, or that you have ‘made it’ and that you are set for life. Neither of these myths are remotely true.

Even with your occasional rags to riches stories in entertainment, there is a pervasive ambivalent community attitude about the arts, which flows through to schools – there is uncertainty of what the arts are and what worthwhile outcomes they can produce. Even in my own upbringing, I was freaked out by the proposition of becoming a musician professionally.  Not until I was jettisoned into a rock band while I was in college, did I start to become somewhat comfortable with the idea of being an artist. I still cringe sometimes when I introduce myself at social gatherings as a ‘musician’ or ‘composer’ – since I feel like there is an immediate social stigma which labels me as a slacker, arrogant, and wasting my life.  I know that none of these assessments are accurate – but I sometimes find it hard to articulate why my role in a community is so important.  The meaning of art and music has been a point of discussion by many famous philosophers, such as Tolstoy, Hegel, Wittgenstein, Maritain – but there doesn’t exist a definitive, and firm argument which highlights the main purpose of music in human civilization. Even if it did exist, we live in a culture that appreciates a different set of values – we even look at the music industry in terms of album sales, tour numbers,  fan base, door %’s and recouping. To choose to be an artist and musician is a difficult choice in conjunction with all this.

The philosopher Ruth Chang points out that people always tend toward a ‘less risky option’ with their life choices. To choose a life of art is hard, “because of an unreflective assumption we make about value. We unwittingly assume that values like justice, beauty, kindness, are akin to scientific quantities, like length, mass and weight… As post-Enlightenment creatures, we tend to assume that scientific thinking holds the key to everything of importance in our world, but the world of value is different from the world of science. The stuff of the one world can be quantified by real numbers. The stuff of the other world can’t. We shouldn’t assume that the world of is, of lengths and weights, has the same structure as the world of ought, of what we should do…Understanding hard choices in this way uncovers something about ourselves we didn’t know. Each of us has the power to create reasons.”

Music and art ideally was never about money- and it never should be.  A lot of people get into music for the wrong reasons: sex, fame, fortune, drugs, respect…. some nobler than others… some not so much.  I’m still young in terms of musical career, and how much I still have to learn – but I think I know one thing that can speak to having a purpose and all this existential conflict: don’t worry about it so much. All the cultural discourse about music will carry on – people will continue bitching about the state of the music industry and everything, the decline of record sales, and streaming, and free music, yadda yadda….  that world doesn’t make or break music ultimately. It never did.

Music is magic. Communal, cathartic, revolutionary, transformational, and sacred. The music business is fickle, and unfortunately has been incredibly faithless lately – and I think that is it’s worst aspect currently. Fans come and go – bookers, promoters, labels all come and go.  But a beautiful song will last, and change lives.  When I first wrote the string composition for David Bazan’s song, “Priests and Paramedics” I wept in my hotel room.  That song, and what it did to me is something incredible.  I can’t put into words the power that an experience like that had on me.

I’m happy and love this life I have chosen for myself. And to all of my fellow musicians: you are blessed, beautiful, and have a wonderful gift to share. This career isn’t easy, and this society not fair.  But grit and a genuine love of this art will keep you going.

Here is a beautiful quote to end on fromKarl Paulnack, the Director of the Music Division at The Boston Conversatory given to freshmen music students:

“You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used cars. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well. Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.”

2014-10-15 18.51.13

Passenger String Quartet is On the Road!


ImageThe Passenger String Quartet is about to embark on our first full US tour as a group together, and we couldn’t be more excited!  This is going to be for 6 1/2 weeks, and we will post regular updates from life on the road, while we tour with David Bazan, and David Dondero who will be opening all of our Fall 2014 dates.

Dates are available at Check out the link for free streaming music, tour dates, and purchase links for the album: David Bazan & The Passenger String Quartet Vol. 1.  See you on the road!

Review of Bazan + PSQ Volume 1 by Paste Magazine


Well the album is officially released!  You can snag a copy at:

In addition, the glowing reviews for the album are rolling in!  Check out the below one from Paste Magazine by Alex Skidmore:

“David Bazan has more than enough material between his numerous projects—Pedro The Lion, Headphones, Overseas—from the last 17 years to have made multiple greatest hits compilations, but rather than do it in the more traditional way of throwing tracks together with a few B-sides or live versions, Bazan reimagines the classics. First it was his live studio album from 2010, Live At Electrical Audio, and now he’s given us a collaboration with Seattle’s Passenger String Quartet aptly titledDavid Bazan + Passenger String Quartet Volume 1.

As with any compilation, everyone can make arguments for songs that aren’t included (I for one would have loved to see “Curse Your Branches” included), but Bazan has chosen some real standards for this collection. From Pedro The Lion numbers such as “The Fleecing” and “When They Really Get To Know You They Will Run” to new classics like “Lost My Shape” and “Wolves At The Door,” Volume 1is a well-rounded assortment of songs. Not to mention the fact that this album is VOLUME ONE. That’s a pretty good indicator that there will be more to come from Bazan and the PSQ in the future. Whether those volumes end up containing new songs or more from past releases, they will be worth a listen.

This album very accurately captures the raw power and intimate intensity that Bazan consistently delivers in live settings. The string arrangements are hauntingly captivating as they give these tunes new life while being reminiscent of the album versions we’re familiar with. Bazan has always had a way with melodies, and the strings capture them wonderfully, accentuating small musical lines and sending these songs into all new heights and even depths. “Bands With Managers” soars after the addition of the chorus from “June 18, 1976,” while “Wolves At The Door” is slowed down for a darker and more brooding feeling than the Strange Negotiationsversion. This album is a must for any fan of Bazan’s work as both a beautiful piece of work and a marker of all that he has accomplished in writing over the years.

It also comes at a time when Bazan seems to be turning another page as an artist. While continuing his living room tours and other live runs with the Passenger String Quartet, Bazan is in the middle of his ongoing New Songs Volume 1 project wherein he releases two new songs on the first of every month going back to July 2014 and through November. Without drawing too much attention away from the piece at hand, he is doing some amazing new things thus far.

Bazan shows no signs of slowing down between his various studio projects and seemingly constant tour schedule. At the very least, David Bazan + Passenger String Quartet Volume 1 is a fitting celebration of a truly great artist.”