Label: Secretly Canadian
Released: February 21st, 2012
Few albums, let alone albums released this year, could boast the intimate yet grand production found on the temporal and geographical shift of Maraqopa. Though best categorized in the vein of singer-songwriter affairs, Jurado avoids the vogue of plaintive acoustic guitar backed by hushed warbles of narrative reclusion. There are dashes of psychedelia throughout, from the late night guitar jamming of “Nothing Is The News” to the guitar/glockenspiel meld of “Reel to Reel” and the overall auspicious use of reverb to create deep, introspective backdrops as a perfect partner to Jurado’s thoughts. This is not a happy album, though by no means is it maligned to doom and gloom, rather it’s a “mature” album that features some of the best written lyrics of this year.
Take “Working Titles”, derived from the creative jargon for a name not finalized (mostly used in film, but really can be inferred for novels, albums, etc.) or ready for public release. Jurado’s narrator is in a constant state of flux, from the beautiful opening stanza “You could mess with my life in a poem/ have me divorced by the time of the chorus/ there’s no need to change any sentence/ when you always decide where I go next” arguably one of the better, and more heart-wrenching, kiss off lines of all time. Another album highlight is “Life Away From The Garden” which features a ghostly call and response between Jurado and a children’s choir (The Swift Family Singers) as it mirrors the abandonment of the Garden of Eden. To Jurado’s credit, it’s not entirely in the Biblical sense as it is the loss of innocence. The final line “all of us light, all of us free” could be both looking forward and looking back, depending on your world view.
Much has been made of the partnership between Jurado and his producer, Richard Swift, and how Maraqopa is as much its own record as it is a continuation of his 2010 release, Saint Bartlett but the foremost compliments must go to Jurado for integrating Swift’s production to the best results ( a good example is how George Martin went on to be the producer for America after working with The Beatles to far less results). Alongside his beautiful lyrics, Jurado has a equally affecting voice, a strong masculine warble that is equal parts David Crosby and Neil Young, delivering his words with a mix of sadness and perseverance.
All and all, Maraqopa is a real treat of a record, encapsulating both the intimacy of Damien Jurado as a singer-songwriter, as well as pushing the form forward by taking on intricate arrangements and it’s a welcome addition to the best records released this year.
Album Highlights: “Nothing Is The News”, “Life Away From The Garden”, “Reel to Reel”, “Working Titles”, “So On Nevada”, “Museum of Flight”
Watch: “Nothing Is The News”