The 11th album from the Seattle indie musician serves as a eulogy, marking the final installment in Jurado’s artistic transformation
In the course of 20 years, a man’s life changes, particularly from the budding think-you’re-an-adult late-teens to enduring the actual struggle and actual heartache and actual life that serves — for better or worse — as a prerequisite to adulthood. What’s more, the man himself changes. He has to at some point, under the threat of irrelevancy and stagnation. Pacific Northwest indie-folk artist Damien Jurado, with his latest LP, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son (out today on Secretly Canadian), has done just that.
A look at Jurado’s prolific discography plays out like poet Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece Meets the Big O. Silverstein’s short, illustrated children’s book tells of a pizza-slice-shaped piece that once sat alone, “waiting for someone to come along and take it somewhere.” But it’s when the piece stops looking outward and develops its own literal momentum that it gains traction and ultimately becomes a different shape altogether.
It’s no longer a secret that Jurado, too, has made that transformation.
For Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son, Jurado brought back Robert Swift as producer. The solo artist and sometimes keyboardist for the Shins has been instrumental in Jurado’s growth, drawing out the experimental side of the 35-year-old musician while honing the soft indie-folk talents that inform Jurado’s first eight albums.
There are traces of old Jurado in there, “Silver Joy” in particular pairing his earnest vocals with acoustic guitar plucks. But the starkness that made songs like 1999’s “Ohio” and 2008’s “Sheets” fan favorites is missing. There’s an underlying hum as Jurado asks to be left alone in this peace he’s found, somewhere in the “slumber of the morning.” As the second-to-last song on the record, it’s as though he’s paying homage to himself, saying goodbye, and welcoming the next iteration of his artistic life. He ends on lines weighty with finality: “Keep me with you on the ground. / All of my worries behind me now. / And be sure to wake me when / eternity begins.”
The sense of transformation intensifies with “Suns in Our Minds,” the next track and final song of the album, sounding most like the one-man Crosby, Stills, & Nash to which his new artistic persona has been likened.
Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son is Jurado’s signpost of his own reincarnation. It’s a farewell and a transition, a comforting pat that lets us know that while he’s not going anywhere, he also won’t be the same next time we see him. Fellow Seattle indie musician Josh Tillman (a.k.a. Father John Misty) captures that in an essay penned four months ago that serves as the most compelling review of this album: “Damien Jurado made up his own Jesus because a Damien Jurado album needs a beautiful Jesus,” he writes. “Some freaky space Jesus that I don’t recognize. The name is the same, a lot of the imagery is the same, but he’s reborn. Born again, I mean. Yeah, as if Jesus got born again. That’s what this album sounds like.”