Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Welcome to Jurado, USA

Maybe I haven’t been listening, or maybe he isn’t being heard – but either way, I’ve been missing out on the pleasant honesty in Damien Jurado’s acoustic strums.

He hasn’t branched from a wildly popular indie band or appeared out of thin air – he has been paying his own indie dues for the past 15 years and I am suddenly wishing I had been on his soft and rural-sounding bandwagon all along. Jurado, a peaceful but hard-edged solo voice who resembles a Matt Mays and Bon Iver lovechild, is a soothing and provocative slice of alt-country. Ten releases later, this Seattle-born musician sounds every bit more developed and secure in his mellow rustic rock.

I recently heavily familiarized myself with his past two releases: Caught in the Trees (2008) and Saint Bartlett (2010), and have found his country anthems to be something worthy of a mass audience. Off the former album, "Sheets" is a hard-hitting anthem of ruthless infidelity and latent anger towards an unfaithful lover. The simple acoustic guitar that's later bombarded by crashing drums and dancing piano keys is a subtle background for Jurado's pained monotone vocals.

"Arkansas", off his 2010 release, is a doo-wop last dance for contemporary indie lovers. He whines "Taller than trees and brighter than starlight/ I never feel magic unless I'm with you/ Oh, Arkansas," over 1950s clinking piano, cowbell and a kickdrum.

"Cloudy Shoes," also off Saint Bartlett, is an uplifting and atmospheric melody that models what you would think a song called "Cloudy Shoes" is supposed to sound like. Jurado's spiritual croons are echoed by his own autotune vocals throughout the song, while a clap beat orchestrates the floating piano and string background. "Funny how we all can change/ If we just try to/ I thought it was impossible to live and love like you/ ...Trying to fix my mind/ I'm still trying to fix my mind."

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