Artist: Damien Jurado
Album: Brothers And Sisters of The Eternal Son
Release Date: January 21, 2014 (Secretly Canadian)
Buzz Factor: 4.5/5
At this point, as he releases his third consecutive record produced by Richard Swift, it is hardly honest to refer to Damien Jurado’s work as a solo outfit anymore. The influence and contribution of The Shins keyboardist has been invaluable in Jurado’s evolution from mopey, acoustic anonymity into more successful, blogosphere-acclaimed territory.
The most interesting element in much of Jurado’s early work was often his wandering vocal melodies—jumping between octaves, twisting the ends of phrases around and back into themselves and surprising listeners with uniquely poetic and surrealist lyricism. Although these elements remain in the post-Swift universe of Jurado material—or have even grown stronger, like Jurado’s newfound affinity for falsetto and its versatility as a texture or instrument as much as another vocal expression—Swift lends his multi-instrumentalist talents to expand Jurado’s songs into sprawling, epic soundscapes that channel the magnitude and grandeur of the The Lord of the Rings soundtrack and the marching, bleeding heart pride of the greatest hair metal anthems in the same effortless breath.
Standout track “Silver Timothy” was first previewed in the teaser video for Brothers And Sisters of The Eternal Son. But what those shots of Jurado and Swift air-drumming in-studio did not manage to mention was the nearly two-minute breakdown that spans the massive chasm at the center of the song. The hook is easily the catchiest melody Jurado has ever written, but its arrival at the tail end of the bridge makes the sonic experience all the more rewarding as a reprise from the churning build-up of quarter-note snare hits, grooving bass line and Jurado’s layered falsetto.
With the developing and expanding aesthetic, Swift’s introduction into Jurado’s songwriting process seems to have brought the Seattle native a greater self-confidence as a speaker. Themes of heartbreak and failed relationships have transformed into Hemingway-like solitude and anonymity, or the desire to “just disappear,” as Jurado lays out in the opening to the album trailer.
It is perhaps ironic that Jurado’s interest is lately so focused on this concept of anonymity, considering the widened recognition his last few records have won him; or maybe it’s simply a sign that Jurado is just as bewildered but delighted as his fans by the high caliber of his newest material and the looming threat of obscurity which this material has only recently alleviated.