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CD Review: Damien Jurado

Caught in the Trees

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The Deal: Eighth full-length from Jurado – More campfire indie rock for the forlorn.

The Good: Jurado's been turning in compelling records since emerging from the Northwest in the late '90s, though to little fanfare. That's a head-scratcher, since Jurado's haunting minor-key vignettes and Raymond Carver-like relationship ditties far surpass in intelligence the likes of, say, Damien Rice or Ryan Adams. Jurado's characters are typically desperate outsiders, spurned or cheating lovers, and the painfully self-conscious on the abyss of desperate acts, a sensation the singer gets across with a coiled-spring vocal delivery well-suited for lines like "you must remove the skin and burn it off for fuel" (about the creative process in "Caskets") or "tell me the lie/over and over again" (from "Go First"). Jurado's great at capturing those moments on the brink, and the faster, rock-paced tempos ratchet up the tension better than some of his more sedate efforts. (His best, 2002's I Break Chairs, was indeed furniture-smashing worthy.) Every Jurado record comes with standout cuts tailor-made for what old-timers used to refer to as FM radio, and here the galloping pop of "Gillian the Horse," the slow-burn, electric guitar-build of "Coats of Ice," and the cathartic rocker "Go First" fit that bill.

The Bad: Whenever Jurado cranks up the pace and the electric guitars, the results are so good the soft stuff, at times too precious anyway, tends to fade into the background.

The Verdict: RIYL Elliot Smith, Jason Molina, Richard Buckner, David Bazan and their ilk.

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