Release Date: Feb 20, 2012
Record label: Secretly Canadian
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Damien Jurado’s latest is a fantastic maze. As far as I can tell, Maraqopa is an imagined word, chosen perhaps for its aesthetic value or its auditory quality. That it bears a resemblance to the name of the Arizona county overseen by noted Latinophobe/”America’s Toughest Sheriff” Joe Arpaio is telling; that the term “Maricopa,” as it relates to said county and its American Indian namesake, is a bastardization of the Spanish word for “butterfly” — all these things are pertinent.
I know I have no business writing reviews for this site since I feel mild elation that I’ve found a new record I actually enjoy on something other than a purely intellectual or even theoretical level. I was really starting to give up hope. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those “I’ve seen rock’s future” pieces telling you about how my faith in new music was restored by the transformative experience of hearing Damien Jurado tunes.
It's difficult to choose a definitive Damien Jurado record, but his previous offering, 2010's Saint Bartlett was certainly a standout album in his back catalogue. Compared to previous records where Jurado was rocking it out a little bit on the few occasions that he wasn't slipping nicely into the one-man-and-his-guitar mould, Saint Bartlett was the sound of Jurado slipping off stool, stepping back from the microphone, letting the songs breathe and letting the arrangements do more talking. Simultaneously more expansive and intimate Jurado was no doubt greatly aided by producer (and fellow singer-songwriter) Richard Swift, another individual with a knack for sweetening the pill of acerbic lyrical pathos with sublime melody.
Damien JuradoMaraqopa[Secretly Canadian; 2012]By Justin Pansacola; February 22, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetMy introduction to Damien Jurado was in 2007 when he opened for Okkervil River. He took the stage that night inconspicuously and rolled out a series of careful, contemplative songs on his acoustic guitar that, by the end of the set, had the audience hypnotized. Afterward I saw him leaning against a wall outside the venue, away from the crowds and looking at his phone.
Seattle singer/songwriter Damien Jurado is one of the better examples of the somewhat invisible but very real trend of gentle folk musicians who started out in hardcore bands. Along with Mark Thousands (whose work in Youth of Today gave way to a hushed solo career), Dan Littleton (the Hated to Ida), and even Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat and Fugazi eventually mellowing into the Evens), Jurado's punk past was held in stark contrast to the spare folk dirges that marked the beginnings of his solo career in the late '90s. While hardcore and indie folk might represent two extremes, the musicians who are versed in the ethos of punk tend to have a more imaginative approach to their folk leanings than those who come up in the sleepy coffeehouse scenes.
Damien Jurado wasn’t kidding when he told fans that his new release was going to be unlike anything they’d heard from him before. Fifteen years and 10 albums into his career, the Seattle singer-songwriter seems to have found his ideal collaborator in producer Richard Swift, who worked with Jurado on 2010’s excellent Saint Bartlett. Where once there was stripped down folk, country and pop rock, Swift has helped Jurado flesh out his sound with breezy bossa nova (“This Time Next Year”), a spooky children’s choir (“Life Away From the Garden”) and some ‘70s organ work (“So On, Nevada”).
Maybe 13 really is a lucky number. That's the number of years into Seattle singer/songwriter Damien Jurado's career that he linked up with production extraordinaire Richard Swift for the former's 2010 LP, Saint Bartlett. The album saw the former painting his works with broader brushstrokes and an expanded palette of colors, exercising an accessibility that made the album stand out like a gloriously sore thumb in a catalog of Pacific Northwest folk rock that, for most of the previous decade, had only registered with the closest-watching of observers.
There is no place called Maraqopa, not a real one outside of Damien Jurado's new record. There is a Maricopa, Arizona, and it oddly comes close to describing the record. It's a place where the population grew 4080% between 2000 and 2010, but it's also a vast expanse of suburban developments outside of Phoenix that was devastated by the housing crisis.
In 2010, Seattle folk troubadour Damien Jurado teamed up with producer Richard Swift to craft one of the most immersive, and best, records in his 15-year career: Saint Bartlett. With Swift’s bleak, dream-folk production breathing new life into already robust anatomy, the record was atmospheric, anthemic, evocative, and, because it was a Jurado album, it got only a fraction of the acclaim it deserved. But Jurado has gotten used to his relative obscurity, and it hasn’t stopped him from joining forces with Swift for round two, in what the duo has dubbed Maraqopa–the latest addition to the ever-changing landscape of one of folk music’s most talented, ostensibly muddled minds.
The Seattle-based singer songwriter Damien Jurado has been plying his holistic brand of folk-rock balladry since the mid-90s. His earliest recordings were on his own label and, were cassette-based no less. His otherworldly but intimate songs quickly gained attention and by the late 90s he signed with Sub Pop to produce his first full-length, Waters Ave.
One of Jurado’s strongest albums in an encouraging line of strong albums. Daniel Ross 2012 It would be wrong to say that Damien Jurado is approaching musical maturity – he’s always sounded mature. Maroqopa is, unsurprisingly, mature-sounding, but through its sparse, desolate folk has been woven some frolicking touches, the odd hint that this serious man has lightened.