US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Listen: Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son

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Damien Jurado (Secretly Canadian, 2014)

Even if you’ve never heard Damien Jurado’s music before, you might know him by name. Since the ’90s, the indie songsmith from Seattle has garnered a loyal following and critical praise, spurning the well-trodden path of the acoustic pop troubadour for experimental freedom.

Ranging from lo-fi folk to sound collages, no two of Jurado’s records sound quite alike. If a thread runs through his catalogue, it’s the mournful vocals and melodies that recall Mark Kozelek and Elliott Smith, though neither is a perfect comparison.

The revelation of Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son is that a more cohesive musical identity seems to be forming for Jurado. As one might expect of a spiritual quest in the hinterland, echoes of psychedelia are also present here. This is plainest on “Silver Timothy,” in which a bossa nova groove is enveloped by hollow clatters and wailing guitars, evoking a disorienting dream.

Perhaps alluding to the mysterious nature of speech in dreams, Jurado’s lyrics lean cryptic. On “Return to Maraqopa,” Jurado interrogates someone—possibly himself—with questions of identity and origin: “Are you a signal? Where is your station?”

Jurado is a Christian, and religious themes appear on this record, but not in a heavy-handed way. On “Jericho Road,” he sings of “resurrection” in distorted howl, almost a lament. That theme continues on the acoustic “Silver Katherine,” which ends with the haunting refrain, “Roll away the stone.”

While Brothers isn’t the most radio-friendly of Jurado’s efforts, its mythical world-making and bold musical choices stay with the listener. It’s not only a spiritual travelogue, it’s a glimpse of an artist reaching the height of his powers—a journey that has a certain mystery and beauty all its own.

This article appeared in the May 2014 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 79, No. 5, page 42).