Damien Jurado's music has the ability to deeply touch people, an increasingly rare thing these days for a musician. The songwriter's performances have been known to leave audience members in tears, and the songwriter's local stop on his current tour is because a Lebanon, Ohio, man simply loved his music so much that he took care of the finances and venue to get him here.
Listening to Jurado's amazing recent effort, Rehearsals for Departure (SubPop), it's easy to understand the odd fanaticism. Jurado taps straight into an emotional consciousness in such a direct way that it's almost confessional, but at the same time the lyrics are slices of life presented with a nearly pained melancholy.
Like earlier Afghan Whigs efforts, Jurado's songs have that uncanny ability to express exact, honest emotions that can easily have you thinking, "That's exactly how I feel."
As for the music, Jurado manages a wonderfully diverse and eclectic album. Track to track, the instrumentation switches up making for much more than your average singer/songwriter effort. The Posies' Ken Stringfellow provides much of the ornamentation as producer and keyboardist, working in hypnotic mellotron riffs and warm keyboard lines over Jurado's acoustic strums.
This isn't a record that jumps out at you immediately, but when it does grab you, it doesn't let go. Jurado's unique voice (part soft Nick Drake, part nasal Neil Young) takes a couple listens to get used to as well, but eventually he comes off like a confidant spilling his guts over the phone line at 3 a.m.
If there can be Australian Country singers and British Blues singers, then it shouldn't be that surprising to discover an American BritPop band. That's the best way to describe The Waking Hours from Richmond, Va., a melody-happy Rock quartet whose self-titled debut was just released by Time Bomb Records.
Like the Canadian Pop genius of Sloan, The Waking Hour wears its influences on its sleeve, but they do so proudly and in a celebratory manner. While the band does borrow from current BritPop practitioners like Oasis, Blur and Pulp, and their album has that distinct swagger and sneer, the finely crafted melodies and tightly energetic bounce and grind of the album draws from a wide array of archetypal Pop Rock. They seem just as influenced by the brothers Davies as they are the brothers Gallagher.
The album practically ignites with the opener, "Picture Show," which punches with the brattiness of Oasis' "Hello" and The Stooges' "TV Eye." The influx of influence is fairly obvious throughout the record, but it's never overly distracting: "Don't Fade Away" is a direct ancestor of Cheap Trick's "Surrender," and parts of "Out of My Mind" recall BTO's "Takin' Care of Business," but the songs manage to sound classic without sounding stolen. Buzzing, high-octane songs like "I Got You" and "Morning Sun" stand on their own, injected with the kind of melodies that burrow into your consciousness on first listen.
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