"Change" seems to be the key word for Damien Jurado these days. New kid, new record, new sound, and, at the time of this review, a new label--having left Sub Pop for Secretly Canadian. Sometimes it seems like when artists have kids, the music tones down--that's why I Break Chairs is so interesting. Instead of a mellowing out, Jurado, who was already pretty mellow soundwise, has cranked the amps to 11. He's got a backing band, too, Gathered in Song, so I'm thinking that he's taking this new rock sound pretty seriously.
I'm glad, too, because I Break Chairs is a great record. Jurado, who's quietly made records for a few years now, could have stayed on the path created by his first three records, but that would not only be redundant of him, it might also detract from his talent. You gotta mix things up in this rock-and-roll world, and in so doing, Jurado's assured himself of not only artistic growth, but also a host of new fans who might not appreciate that whole folk singer thing.
If you're familiar with Jurado's previous albums, then you'll be most surprised when I Break Chairs kicks off with "Paper Wings," Jurado's hardest rock moment in his solo career. A lot of this new direction can be attributed to his close friend and producer, Pedro the Lion's genius David Bazan, and the cast of musicians behind him, who operate with Jurado under the name Gathered In Song, and who also happen to serve time as Jurado's singing partner Rosie Thomas' backing band. Gathered in Song help out on I Break Chairs and while there are moments of mellow folk, such as the lovely yet disturbing "Air Show Disaster."
There are quite a number of jewels to be found on I Break Chairs, and each time I've listened to it, a different song quickly becomes my favorite, and I find myself hitting repeat. This afternoon, it's been "Birdcage" and "Never Ending Tide," but those are only two of twelve great numbers, and I've found myself listening to I Break Chairs a lot this weekend. Maybe it's because, unlike so many other rock records, and having appreciated Jurado's dark, twisted worldview-in-song, it's an autumnal rock record. "Autumnal" is a great word to use, because the definition that I found is "a period of maturity before decline." While I'd hardly think that Jurado is in any danger of decline, I Break Chairs is certainly a very mature record, and it leaves me wanting more. Good job, Damien!