Secretly Canadian recording artist Damien Jurado performs at the Biltmore Cabaret with guest Peter Wolf Crier.
It's hard to find an entrance point into Damien Jurado's discography. You could start from the beginning, 1997's Waters Ave. S., but that record is filled with the sort of angsty, electric Pac NW indie-rock that is largely uncharacteristic of his catalogue as a whole. You could start with his first folk-leaning LP, 1999's Rehearsals for Departure, which has one of the best and most tender songs he's written, "Eyes For Windows", or 2002's comparatively upbeat I Break Chairs, but there's not much to make either stand out from the pack. If nothing else, Jurado has been oddly cursed by his own consistency.
Produced by the increasingly ubiquitous Richard Swift, Saint Bartlett, Jurado's ninth record is, finally, a striking departure. So much so that only the sound of his voice keeps you from thinking this could be the work of someone else. The change is noticeable right off the bat, announced by the lushly stringed baroque pop of "Cloudy Shoes", and it continues throughout, with meditations on 1950s girl-group balladry, thorny Neil Young-esque guitar rock, and cavernous chamber-pop.
Swift deserves a fair amount of credit for the reinvention that's on display here, and his ear for instrumentation does wonders for these songs. The woodblock percussion that backs "Arkansas" gives the tune a slight ramshackle bent, while Swift applies the perfect amount of guitar fuzz to turn "Wallingford" into a gentle stomper. Most impressively, the application of subtle space in "Kalama" lends a new gravitas to Jurado's voice, effectively making him bigger than his own sound.