Release Date: Jan 21, 2014
Record label: Secretly Canadian
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Damien Jurado says his new album, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son, is “about a guy who disappears on a search, if you will, for himself and never goes home. ” That search comes complete with rolling stones, resurrections, zodiacs, gardens, and a fictional utopia called Maraqopa. If the quest for the self amid rugged terrain and religious- and drug-tinged language is a time-honored American one, Jurado chronicles it guardedly, if not impersonally.
Since partnering with Richard Swift on 2010’s Saint Bartlett, Damien Jurado’s music has diverged from that of the somber singer/songwriter he has come to be known as—leaving behind airy, sparse recordings for a world of thick reverb and echoing choirs. On Brothers and Sisters of The Eternal Son, Jurado and Swift step further away from those roots to create an otherworldly experience. For anyone who follows Damien Jurado, it shouldn’t come as such of a surprise that his sound has shifted in this direction.
Since last October, Secretly Canadian has been promoting Damien Jurado‘s new album by sharing an “essay” about the album written by “Father John Misty” (Joshua Tillman). With all due respect to Jurado and his label, who clearly believe the essay is a worthwhile way to build awareness of the release, I think Tillman’s rant threatens to torpedo the whole enterprise. By sarcastically disavowing both popular and dissident perceptions of America and Jesus Christ and Jurado’s output, Tillman becomes the very thing he intends to renounce: a too-certain philosopher.
Long-running indie singer/songwriter Damien Jurado branched out into even deeper sonic territory with his Richard Swift-produced 2012 album, Maraqopa. That album's production managed to be in a constant state of tense flux without ever becoming busy or overblown, winding subtle touches of psychedelia and haunted echo around the acoustic core of Jurado's songs. A few years later, the duo of Swift and Jurado return with the sublime and even further out Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son, a twisting set of songs that hides intricate production techniques in Jurado's increasingly layered and complex compositions.
On Damien Jurado's 11th album, a sequel to 2012's Maraqopa, the prolific singer/songwriter pulls from the diverse bag of tricks he's deployed since his late-90s debut. Sure, stripped-down, acoustic versions of the songs could've worked, but with help from producer Richard Swift, they're fleshed out into psychedelic dreams dappled with field recordings, Latin guitar and Jurado's serene vocals, raising existential questions that don't quite get answered. Even tunes that start out with straightforward strumming and tapping (Silver Timothy) end up dizzy with electronic effects.
Seattle singer/songwriter Damien Jurado has released a wealth of material since his emergence in 1997, with Brothers And Sisters Of The Eternal Son becoming his 11th album release and, tellingly, his third with The Shins’ multi-instrumentalist Richard Swift on production duties. Jurado’s lyrics are those of a true poet, words that encourage quizzical thought throughout, often depicting fictional tales “reflecting on alienation, disappearance and the pursuit of self”. 2008’s Caught In The Trees was far more personal, with the after effects of his own divorce reaching out in every heartfelt word.
Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son is Damien Jurado’s 11th album, but more importantly it’s the third piece in a Richard Swift-produced triptych that began with 2010’s St. Bartlett and continued on 2012’s Maraqopa. If those first two are linked by the psychedelic experimentation and other studio stamps unique to the Jurado-Swift partnership, Brothers and Sisters is a no-bones-about-it sequel to Maraqopa; several tracks reference the mythical locale conjured from one of Jurado’s dreams, and one song is even titled “Return to Maraqopa”.
There's always been a hint of spirituality to Damien Jurado. The Seattle-born singer/songwriter's solo recordings tend to bathe in chiming melodies and puritanical lyricism, creating deep and soulful psalms flushed with introspection. For album number 13, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son, Jurado takes his musical piety one step further, creating a record that focuses on the inner workings of a self-made religious community.
A dozen albums in, Seattle singer-songwriter Damien Jurado has finally found an identity that suits him – a one-man Crosby, Stills and Nash. Produced by fellow offbeat troubadour Richard Swift, ‘Brothers And Sisters Of The Eternal Son’ bills itself as a concept album, a road movie with no end, but the songs are tight, the meaning incidental and any big ideas play second fiddle to bewitching tunes and delicate harmonies. Sometimes Jurado lets rip, gearing up to a shamanic groove on ‘Silver Donna’, giving it a Grateful Dead freakout on ‘Silver Timothy’ and test-driving syncopated psych-rock on ‘Magic Number’.
Since first working with producer Richard Swift on 2010’s Saint Barlett, Damien Jurado’s records have taken on a new focus, and have slightly reshuffled their priorities. While offerings like Caught in the Trees used unassuming arrangements as vehicles for robust songs, Jurado’s new approach places atmosphere above straight up songwriting. And as you can tell from the title of Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son, Jurado’s still reaching for the conceptual on this one, which plays out like a conceptual sequel to his last set, 2012's Maraqopa.
Over his nearly 20-year career, singer-songwriter Damien Jurado has managed to bounce from one genre to the next, displaying incredible versatility but never losing his characteristically intimate and honest voice. From the timeless pop songwriting in 1999’s Rehearsals For Departure, to the churning, crunching rock in 2002’s I Break Chairs, and the understated, tender folk ballads of 2008’s Caught In The Trees, no matter what he releases, it still manages to sound like Jurado. Furthered by working with producer Richard Swift on his latest exceptional offerings, 2010’s Saint Bartlett and 2012’s Maraqopa, he expanded his palate even more, delving into vintage girl group pop, trippy psychedelia, and baroque chamber tunes.
With his eleventh album under this belt, Damien Jurado has paved a versatile and storied path, encapsulating everything from a coffee shop soundtrack to a full-blown psychedelic revival. Continuing his collaboration with producer Richard Swift, Jurado’s Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son carries on where 2012’s Maraqopa left off, showcasing Jurado’s two decades in the folk game. From my experience, most folk rock albums usually get dismissed and get filed under coffee shop background music.
After eight pleasant, if unremarkable, albums, Seattle-based Damien Jurado's great leap forward came in 2010 when he first teamed up with Richard Swift, whose production nous elevated his rootsy singer-songwriter fare to more dramatic heights. Their third album together doesn't disappoint, from the bruised melancholia of the piano-led Metallic Cloud and the dramatic Jericho Road (with its unexpected echoes of Deep Purple's Child in Time) to the more sparse likes of Silver Joy. There's still room for improvement – there's a very definite sag in the middle of the album – but this is another enjoyable set.
Damien Jurado — Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son (Secretly Canadian)Ever since he began working with producer Richard Swift, Damien Jurado’s music has become progressively trippier and more psychedelic, slipping whatever folk-strumming bonds he might once have been tied by and vaulting into surreal, ineffable spirituality. He has also, since about Maraqopa, been experimenting again with 1960s rock sounds, infusing dream-fogged ambiguities with Richard Farina-ish guitar heat. Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son takes it all one step further, opening brightly lit portals to other realities, layering aching, longing, rock-slanting melodies with glittery, silver-toned transcendence.
Perhaps he’s grown used to it, with almost twenty years in the business under his belt, but the fact that Damien Jurado continues to fly under the mainstream radar doesn’t appear to have had an adverse effect on his work ethic. Assuming you count 2011’s live record, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son is his fourth full-length release in as many years, the latest in both a long run of releases on Secretly Canadian and a recent slew of records with The Shins man Richard Swift behind the production desk. Jurado can probably fairly be considered a classical singer-songwriter in terms of the topics he’s tended towards – he’s peddled many a tale of heartbreak – but the oblique nature of his relationship with such concepts is perhaps a little less common; he’s routinely shied away from the confessional, although rarely at the cost of real emotional resonance.
Damien Jurado has always been one to explore his every option, and if that’s meant allowing his freak flag to fly, then so be it. Although not widely known to the world at large, this Seattle-based singer/songwriter has always demonstrated consistently creative intents, vetted in a string of albums that affirm his imagination and his aptitude. By manipulating field recordings, random sounds and his well-tuned melodic skills, he effortlessly splices these disparate elements together.
Major Lazer, Apocalypse Soon EP Diplo's Major Lazer project lends itself to the EP format. Its spastic, booty-shaking, dancehall-tinged music is best in brief doses, and it usually struggles when it is tasked to maintain momentum and attention for thirty-plus minutes. I'm disappointed, then, that Apocalypse Soon struggles to keeps things interesting over its modest seventeen minute run.