Well, it’s been so long since neo-folkie Damien Jurado just plugged into an amp and rocked out that you’d almost think he’d forgotten how to. But no, with I Break Chairs‚ Jurado teams up with producer and long-time friend Dave Bazan (Pedro the Lion) and brings back the rock. Frankly, I didn’t know he had it in him.
Given that, with Ghost of David and his recently released four-song vinyl EP, Jurado seemed to be establishing himself as a major talent within the singer/songwriter world — his EP stands easily with the best Will Oldham or Songs:Ohia have to offer — the shift to the amped up rock and roll he flirted with on his Waters Ave S. debut comes as a surprise. But as long as he keep executing this well, Jurado can offer as many surprises as he likes.
Jurado sets the tone early with the opening trio of cuts blowing whatever dust may have been gathering on his amp into oblivion. The second cut (“Dancing”) in particular hits hard with its discordant guitar line. It pushes Jurado to stretch out his vocals in a way he hasn’t really on any of his albums to date, though this type of thing was hinted at on his early 7″ releases.
The tempo doesn’t come down until you hit the fourth track on the record, and even then, it’s obviously still a full band effort rather than the introspective solo material of his previous releases. Bazan is an excellent choice behind the board, keeping things loose and raw while also adding just the right amount of subtlety to the tones and textures. Beneath the unaccustomed level of noise, Jurado remains as incisive a writer as ever, and has never sounded better vocally. Jurado’s the kind of writer who will probably never overwhelm his audience, but his records seem to be the kind that you just go back to over and over and over again. This one is no exception.
Written by Chris Brown.