#5 on the 2012 Musical Bacon Calendar
Maraqopa by Damien Jurado
I wonder what it must be like to have been writing music and performing continuously for the better part of two decades, a period of time in which you release 11 albums and 18 or so singles and EPs, and then, upon releasing your twelfth record, have it declared the best album of your career. This is exactly where I place Damien Jurado and his jaw-droppingly amazing new album Maraqopa.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of Jurado — he’s been making music in Seattle for 17 years, but his following over that time has not remained consistent, and he’s generally played venues smaller than the 1,100-person Showbox Market every time he’s played. Up until Maraqopa, I would have defined him as your typical indie folk singer/songwriter. Most if not all of his albums are quite enjoyable, but they’re fleeting. The music doesn’t hook you.
Maraqopa is different. Maraqopa intrigues right from the first note. It’s hard for me to put my finger on why this album is so much better than all his previous albums. It’s definitely more psychedelic, with off-kilter sounds, distant echoes and frayed edges. But there are also blended harmonies, intimate pauses, put together in this intricately layered tapestry of sound. Jurado’s voice remains as it always has, evoking thoughts of early Neil Young, but this time, along with the beautiful orchestration, there are hints of Nick Drake, as if he were haunting the recording studio when the album was being put to tape. Watch the video above, from a live session at KEXP back in February, with the Head and the Heart singing backup, and tell me this song doesn’t move you.
I first saw Jurado perform back in 2001, at Graceland (now El Corazon), when he opened for the on-the-cusp Death Cab For Cutie. It was a couple months before his I Break Chairs album, which he recorded with another Seattle staple, Dave Bazan, who at that time was still singing with Pedro the Lion. That show was great, and I used to love that album, but it’s fallen out of favor for me. I can tell you right now this new album won’t be falling. Ever.
(Incidentally, in trying to find more information about this show back in 2001, I discovered that while I was watching Jurado open for a band that was soon going to be the biggest export from Seattle since Nirvana, across town performing at the Showbox Market was none other than Elliott Smith. I love Jurado and Death Cab as much as the next guy, and this was a GREAT show, but I clearly chose the wrong show to be at that night, eh?)
I’ve seen Jurado numerous times since then, and each time has been great. He has an unassuming presence, like he’s someone you’d like to invite over for dinner, or belly up to the bar with to shoot the shit for an hour. This outward friendliness gives me a sense of happiness to see him finally getting some larger recognition for his body of work, playing larger venues, and reaching further audiences. Maybe this is the start of something bigger. I’ll anxiously await the unknown, listening to Maraqopa along the way.
6. Shallow Bed by Dry The River
7. Valtari by Sigur Rós
8. The Heist by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
9. Heaven by The Walkmen
10. State Hospital EP by Frightened Rabbit
11. A Thing Called Divine Fits by Divine Fits
12. Some Nights by fun.
13. Tramp by Sharon van Etten
14. Fear Fun by Father John Misty
15. Love This Giant by David Byrne and St. Vincent
16. To The Treetops! by Team Me
17. The Master: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Jonny Greenwood
18. There’s No Leaving Now by The Tallest Man On Earth
19. Transcendental Youth by The Mountain Goats
20. A Church That Fits Our Needs by Lost In The Trees
21. Hospitality by Hospitality
22. Free Dimensional by Diamond Rings
23. History Speaks by Deep Sea Diver
24. A Different Ship by Here We Go Magic
25. Negotiations by the Helio Sequence
26. Moms by Menomena
27. The Sound of the Life of the Mind by Ben Folds Five
28. Shields by Grizzly Bear
29. Every Child A Daughter, Every Moon A Sun by The Wooden Sky
30. Fragrant World by Yeasayer
31. Reign of Terror by Sleigh Bells