The Horizon Just Laughed
So few artists manage to capture that old folk sense of storytelling in their music anymore, but Damien Jurado treats it as a paramount of his writing. On a record full of smooth grooves and often relaxing sounds, the lyricism of Jurado is what often shines brightest. Though Jurado tackles the whole thing with his earnest spirit and headstrong artistic voice, his arrangements don’t always hit the same level of depth as his lyricism.
With dreamy organs and a majestic swing of strings, the album opens on the lush energy of “Allocate” with Jurado’s soft voice pulling everything together. Although the track really floats on its massive and slow chords endlessly, there’s a growing intrigue in the sound that builds behind it all. The classy tones of “Dear Thomas Wolfe” really draw you into Jurado’s calm but intentioned delivery, and let the soothing harmonies really pull you in. Every chorus is a release of tension as Jurado suggests he’s finally getting where he needs to be.
“Percy Faith” ties in a bit of that early 90s folk with tones of “Bittersweet Symphony” and tells a story to guide listeners through the experience. More than other tracks on this record, “Percy Faith” succeeds best because of its powerful instrumental builds and Jurado’s tempered returns to his refrain. Jurado’s abilities as a storyteller are focused tightly on “Over Rainbows and Rainier” as virtually everything but his guitar is stripped from his sound. Thanks to this beautiful writing, the track ends up being on the most personal and powerful listens of the whole album.
A sandy beat rocks “The Last Great Washington State” as a sense of remorse oozes out of Jurado’s voice and the slow attack of the instrumentation. Though it does feel like the song takes a little too long to build everything together, there’s something truly satisfying in the sound it creates when it’s all finally there. Jurado’s subdued writing shines again on “Cindy Lee” while he keeps things briefer for a track that’s more smile inducing than needlessly complex. The unusual chord progressions of “1973” make its story immediately startling and forces listeners to really focus in on what Jurado is saying. This wondrous story becomes more and more intriguing, and by the time you’re lost in its magic the music itself is matching Jurado.
“Marvin Kaplan” floats on its cool lounge beats as Jurado seems to be as calm in the sound as he is confident he can make something of it. Though he doesn’t entirely escape the cheese of the sounds he plays with on this track, there’s certainly a heartfelt core that keeps the song from feeling like it’s inherently silly. While Jurado’s lyricism and unusual mixes keep something like “Lou-Jean” unusual, it has the tendency to feel a little samey on the record. He saves a lot of it in his relentless narratives but does leave you wanting a little more from the piece as an overall song.
He finds something refreshing on “Florence-Jean” where he lands in a nice Dusty Springfield groove and really just breathes cool out of every ounce of the song. Tying his melodies into the suave nature of his main rhythm, the song is one of the album’s most intoxicating. “Random Fearless” rides the album out on this same energy, as Jurado ups the beats and string arrangements to send the album off on a huge energetic build, and a little Latin guitar.
Words by Owen Maxwell