The Black Heart Procession's fourth full-length marks an ambitious departure, and not just because it's the band's only LP with a proper title (the first three were dubbed 1, 2, and 3). In the past, no one seemed able to breathe the San Diego group's name without dwelling on vocalist and songwriter Pall A. Jenkins' seemingly perpetual depression, not to mention the constant dreariness of the music.
With Amore del Tropico, however, the Procession offers a stunning range of styles and moods -- as well as its usual smorgasbord of strange saw, string, and organ sounds. "Did You Wonder" is downright energetic, while "Tropics of Love" and "Broken World" combine Latin percussion with swinging melodies. Songs like "Sympathy Crime" and "The Visitor" suggest that Jenkins and company have been consuming healthy portions of Pink Floyd, particularly the oddly compelling Animals album.
Of course, there's plenty of vintage BHP gloom to go around. "The Invitation" showcases a spooky piano befitting a haunted house, while the album's closer, "The One Who Has Disappeared," could be a sorrowful cowboy song. "A Cry for Love" is a cleverly composed lounge number that's both sultry and mournful.
Unfortunately, some of the sadder songs recall past bad habits. The rather monotonous melodies of "Broken World" and "A Sign on the Road" cause the album to drag, and some of Jenkins' lyrics suffer from being too literal. (Naming a song "Tropics of Love" is a bit hokey on its own, but making that phrase one of the song's oft-repeated lines is even more dangerous.)
Still, Amore del Tropico shows an incredible amount of maturation from the Black Heart Procession. On this record, the band finally proves that it's possible to be both decidedly morose and highly eclectic.