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If it's not the thud of a heart -- the one that hits rock bottom like a lead weight in a sea of love -- it might be Spain's I Believe. And if it's not a rainy saxophone that accompanies a burning man walking down a street as he ponders the exact point at which the shit hit the fan, it could also be the laments of Spain singer-songwriter Josh Haden, who enshrines all that is melancholy on this ten-song effort.

A rich, dreamy album that both numbs the mind and soothes the soul, I Believe opens with Americana-styled acoustic guitars and Haden's sad-puppy vocals on "She Haunts My Dreams," also the title of Spain's previous, equally distressing 1999 release. Unlike that one, in which Haden's pained pen scribbled in greater detail, the new material keeps lyrical content to a minimum. "The feelings never went away/ Like she did/Now she haunts all my dreams," Haden pines on the opening track. The combination of dark passages and dawdling tempos in songs such as "Mary" and "You Were Meant for Me" calm and pacify. The jazz elements here may come as no surprise, given that Josh is the son of renowned bassist Charlie Haden, whose influence dominates slow-footed songs including "Make Your Body Move" and "Oh That Feeling," on which the younger Haden warns against letting life's treasures walk by. The final track, "Long Time Ago," ends the album on a relatively positive note, enclosing a package of today's heartbreak in an envelope hidden among yesterday's love letters ("One time long ago/When the sun had dimmed its glow/When the clouds were filled with rain and cold/ ... That was a long time ago"). The relentless solemnity of I Believe suggests that time doesn't heal all wounds but rather leaves them open for a lifetime of bleeding.

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Omar Perez

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