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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.