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Damien Jurado | On My Way to Absence (Secretly Canadian)
To date, Damien Jurado has produced one of the most frustrating discographies this reviewer has come across. When he's good he's almost better than anyone else, writing dark and literate songs of depression and dissolution that rank with anything by Buckner, Vlautin or Oldham and yet he's never made a fully satisfying album. 'OMWTA' is perhaps Jurado's least convincing record. Sound-wise it's great. His hushed Nick Drake-on-downers vocals are right up in the mix surrounded by gently sympathetic backing but after several listens it becomes apparent that there's no substance to most of these songs. Where once his lyrics sketched brutal narratives of alienation and submission now they seem like half finished notes written late at night on a bar napkin. The songs are slight, repetitive and way too damn pleasant. He even sounds like Beck on this album and that can't be a good thing. It's indicative that the strongest song here, Simple Hello, is a remake of a song on his first album while I Am A Mountain's Neil Young-isms sound uncomfortable and jarring as if Jurado's lost sense of what makes his songs so good, the fragility and slow narrative development that worked so well on portions of 'Ghost of David' and the last album, 'Where Shall You Take Me'. Hopefully this is just a bad step along the road. One for the collectors and middle-of-the-roadsters.

Stav Sherez
February-April 2005