Lives in reflection with Damien Jurado
Indie rocker Damien Jurado got his start in the mid-90s, carefully pioneering the found-sound indie genre. His new album, The Monster Who Hated Pennsylvania, is his 17th musical creation, and it’s one that reflects his vast musical experience and personal confidence within the folk and independent styles. His musical brand reflects groups in the country folk-hybrid genre like Mt. Joy and Lambchop with their acoustic emphasis and storyteller tracks.
Jurado uses this album as a storybook of interconnectedness, showcasing little specks of ten different lives, each persevering in the midst of tough circumstances, a subject that has become a common theme of his many albums.
The opener for the album, “Helena,” is a folk-centered honky-tonk kind of song with features from a simple shaker and a walking bass; it’s one people might be excited to hear at a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop show or listen to while the rain hits the side of the bus going back to someone’s hometown. It’s a strong opener to the album that promises songs that feel personal and up close.
“Tom” and “Dawn Pretend” are more upbeat reflections of Jurado’s musical character, with attention from a set of drums and some prominent bass moving the melody along. His low, breathy voice and carefree style here especially seem to resemble Jack Johnson. Songs like “Minnesota” reflect Jurado’s poetic characteristics and minimalism. He sings, “I walked out in the morning rain/ You stayed here in the room/ I preferred the weathered sky/ The sound of the echoing earth,” painting a story of the sorrow that comes with contrasting dreams and relationships.
“Jennifer” is an indie-folk ballad, an emotional eulogy for the old self, reflecting and regretting. Jurado laments in “Male Customer #1,” “The loneliest place I’ve ever been is in your arms.” With some sorrowful echoes surrounding his words and a single live guitar shaping most of this track, this is the finale of the album, showing itself as one of the saddest predicaments the characters in this book of stories face.
Jurado’s focus as a minimalist songwriter works to create a vulnerable feeling album in The Monster Who Hated Pennsylvania that emphasizes the beauty found within the mundane.