Once Seattle spat out its last non-ironic grunge act, it turned back to the musical roots that bring people back to real music when they tire of nihilism and drug hangovers. Lacking a better term, the moniker “indie rock” was stapled on, and artists like Damien Jurado resulted. Jurado sings ballads and love songs with a folk influence and a down tempo brought on by the after effects of an overwhelming serotonin rush. Yeah, his girlfriend left, and he’s going to do his level best to bring you down to his depths of loneliness.
Jurado sounds a good bit like the acoustic years of Neil Young, or maybe Dylan with cleaner diction. “The Falling Snow” is as good an example as you can find — simple guitar, a slow, lackadaisical drum kit with a top hat and cymbal, and Jurado singing with himself not exactly in harmony, but in the same key with a hair’s breadth of phase delay mixed with subtle tremolo. It makes his voice shimmer hauntingly. “Beacon Hill” feels even less produced. It consists of Jurado and an acoustic guitar as he whines for his girlfriend to come back to him. The hollow soul of his misery is even stronger in “Arkansas” where he sings, “Fade out, this is where the credits roll” and you think maybe you should call him, just to head off any unpleasantness with razor blades or dry cleaning bags. Calmly intense, this collection of introspective and personal songs is a relaxing but engrossing journey.
I won’t say Jurado is suitable for all occasions, but his plaintive voice calls out for a pat on the back and his precise guitar says he has potential. Once he gets some therapy and medication he’ll spend a few months of sitting in the dark composing. Then he’ll be good. Not as good as new, but better, seasoned with misery and ready to spread the happiness.
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