There is an all too familiar argument that continues to resurface within the modern music generation. It is one that revolves around the meaning of a song, and recent music’s seemingly inability to stimulate the minds of its listeners. Whereas many look to music for a sense of escapism, the most popular mainstream acts are often ridiculed for their lack of lyrical ingenuity and their inability to create art with some sort of significant meaning. Though such a musical debacle seems endless at times, every so often the ears of the public are graced with an artist whose music provides hope for such skeptics. This week’s top emerging artist is Seattle-based songwriter Damien Jurado,who’s acted as such a savior for nearly two decades, and with the upcoming release of his new album, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son (January 21st), the quality of his songwriting becomes more apparent than ever.
Top Emerging Artists: Damien Jurado
Produced by fellow label mate Richard Swift (The Shins, Starflyer 59), Jurado’s new album focuses on the journey of a man searching for a true sense of self. Upon his spiritual journey he ultimately makes the difficult decision to not return home, and spends the rest of his time continuing his search. Though each song represents a new stage in the non-secular trek, Jurado’s soft whisper narrates from start to finish.
Jurado jumps right into it with the albums opener “Magic Number”— a hauntingly tense track dominated by drum and bass. He preaches, “Don’t waste time because there is work to be done,” as the faint melodramatic sounds of horns contribute to the songs overall sense of spiritual discontent, a vibe created by Jurado’s quivering vocals and
The transcendental nature of the track creates a certain sense of uncertainty that ultimately fascinates listeners and grasps their attention. Next, the album’s second track, “Silver Timothy” (the first of several “Silver” titled tracks), provides a psych-folk dance number. Defined by its Western Americana feel, Jurado’s classical guitar sound flirts with the styles of flamenco and other genres of Spanish folk music. He is supported in his crooning of the phrase “Go back down, don’t touch the ground” by the lo-fi sounds of his backing vocalists, as well as the constant shaking of maracas. The diverse instrumentation and highly energetic percussion turns this track into one of the best grooves on the album.
Rounding out the album are several melancholic folk ballads, a style of music that Jurado has perfected throughout his career. “Metallic Cloud” and “Silver Joy” are two the mellowest tunes on Eternal Son (and quite possibly my favorites). The former is the first ballad on the album, and sees the piano playing its most dominant role on the record. Lyrics like “Colors don’t change when your life gets strange,” and “Drove yourself here so you might as well stay / wanna’ be amazed and see the sky on delay” reflect the confusion of a spiritual journeyman. “Silver Joy” provides listeners with Jurado’s most calming performance on the album. The track consists of nothing but his soft lull and the solemn plucking of an acoustic guitar; such a stripped down composition truly showcases Jurado’s pure talent as a singer/songwriter.
Damien Jurado combines the darkened themes of self-discovery with the transcending sounds of psychedelic folk rock, resulting in an album that is as thought provoking as it is necessary. His sound is beautifully simple, yet extraordinarily complex; characteristics that completely elucidate the preternatural quality of his music. His work isn’t just music, but melodic lessons, that listeners should experience every chance they get.
Jurado is currently touring North America, and will be performing at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom on January 24th. For cheap tickets, be sure to visit his Rukkus page.