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Damien Jurado - I Break Chairs

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Artist: Damien Jurado

Album: I Break Chairs

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

Often times, when a singer’s voice is labeled “an acquired taste,” there is an unspoken negative meaning attached to the phrase that suggests limited appeal or unlistenable eccentricity. Underground music fans hear the expression all the time from people who wish to dismiss music because a voice fails to follow the formula created by years of pop music structure, or because it is not immediately satisfying in the way that music listeners have been trained to appreciate. However, a strong case can be made that some of the greatest vocalists in pop music history possess a voice that is considered to be “an acquired taste.”

Damien Jurado’s voice is an acquired taste, and this is meant in the most flattering sense of the phrase. It means that for the people who appreciate Jurado’s music, he is as instantly recognizable on his new albums as he is on his first cassette demos, and those people will often stop what they are doing, sit down, listen and be mesmerized by the music. Jurado’s voice is warm, disarming, and unconventional, and the right pair of ears find it to be beautiful. It is time that music listeners reclaim the term “acquired taste” and reserve it for the music that they care the most about, the music that is the most intensely personal and spiritual.

On his fourth Sub Pop full-length, I Break Chairs, Jurado once again displays his golden throat, though the setting seems a bit different. In a similar vein as Jim O’Rourke’s most recent stunner Insignificance, Jurado is ready to rock after years of delivering pop numbers and sad, slow songs. I Break Chairs finds Jurado assembling a band self-referentially named Gathered in Song after an ep released in 1999 on Made in Mexico, and cornering long-time associate David Bazan to produce, all to great effect. Often, the music is beautiful and loud, in the power-pop tradition of Big Star and Husker Du. The band still knows to play to Jurado’s strength, the poppy folk song, which appears in slightly mutated form in the guises of “Inevitible” and “Never Ending Tide.” The breadth and depth displayed on I Break Chairs is far greater than anything previously heard from Jurado as a solo artist, and the album is well paced and sequenced, resulting in a record that can be listened to from start to finish. “Parade” euphorically runs a play from the Cars gamebook and “The Way You Look” is shining summer pop glory. In a way, it is good to hear that Gathered in Song's setting allows Jurado to create hopeful pop after providing us with several albums of harrowing solitude.

By Andy Cockle

Other Reviews of Damien Jurado

Just In Time For Something

On My Way To Absence

Caught in the Trees

Saint Bartlett


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