Music

Damien Jurado Revels in a Pure Acoustic Sound on 'In the Shape of a Storm'

Photo: Vikesh Kapoor

Quiet and confident, Damien Jurado gives us ten songs bared to the bone but filled with soul on In the Shape of a Storm.

In the Shape of a Storm
Damien Jurado

Mama Bird Recording Co.

12 April 2019

Over the course of Damien Jurado's long, weird, and wonderful career, the genre he has most closely been associated with is folk, usually of a hyphenated sort (folk-rock, psych-folk, etc.), but he has never, until now with In the Shape of a Storm, released a fully acoustic, just a singer and his guitar record. This decade, his ongoing collaboration with Richard Swift brought the odd and stunning trilogy of Maraqopa, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Sun, and Visions of Us on the Land, an adventurous, career-redefining extended semi-sci-fi, semi-spiritual concept record inspired by late 1970s Jesus-freak music. At one point during the 1990s, Jurado declared himself a band and made a collection of records defined by their peaks and valleys of sound and silence. Even his sparser early work still contained atmospheric echoes and ambient noise. Here, at last, we hear Jurado laid barest.

It took Jurado two hours and 19 years to create In the Shape of a Storm. The two hours were all the studio time necessary to record these ten sparse songs with Josh Gordon accompanying on the second guitar. The 19 years is the period of time during which the songs were written and laid to the side to wait for the right moment to be completed. Jurado's previous work, especially the trilogy, functions for the listener both in the foreground and as background. That is, they rewarded close listening but also worked as background music that merged with whatever one was doing, on occasion rising to the foreground of consciousness with a surprising turn or shift. In the Shape of a Storm is an entirely foregrounded record; play it in the background and it will evaporate. These are quiet, affecting songs that demand to be listened to.

An unusual and particularly satisfying aspect of this album is Jurado's attention to love songs, something he has shied away from, at least from the perspective of satisfied love. Yes, there are wry songs of unrequited love here, the kind of situations Jurado paints so well. "Newspaper Gown" is an homage to a cross-gendered friendship with no strings but plenty of speculation, except maybe things are not that clear-cut, as Jurado reveals in its final stanza. "I don't need another reminder of how it isn't our time," Jurado sings on "Anchors" which extends the metaphor begun in "The Shape of a Storm", where the weight of revealed feelings promises more dread than potential happiness: "If I go sailing into the unknown / what are my chances of reaching your shore?" And the brief, crushing "Silver Bell" promises "Time does not heal / Everything an end."

But two of the album's most striking songs are pure, straightforward expressions of that fickle emotion, and in both, Jurado resists his usual urge to complicate things, choosing instead to celebrate the moment and the connection. The brief and beautiful "Oh Weather" finds its narrator taking command of the elements in order to connect with his lover: "Tell the storm that's before me that I'm in a hurry to see you / I have no time for sleeping when it's love that is keeping me true." Likewise, in "Throw Me Now Your Arms", the blind forces that would part all lovers are no match for the narrator, who declares "We're not meant to be on our own." Instead, he too would battle the elements to "be the first to tell you I would give up my life / Every day as the tides grow closer, it is all that's on my mind."

While this album was recorded before Richard Swift's untimely passing, it seems appropriate that Jurado would choose to release so simple and basic-sounding a record following the loss of such an important and distinctive collaborator. In the Shape of a Storm may turn out to be a stop and restart album in Jurado's career, a compass point between significant bearings. If it is, it is both a worthwhile, fitting pause and a promise of new adventure to come.

7


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.