On I Break Chairs, Seattle singer/songwriter Damien Jurado finds himself for the first time shored up by the muscle of a full band. And the results are, for the most part, stunning.
When the anthemic chords of "Paper Wings" kick in to lead off the album, it's like a bell ringing in the town square, heralding in the new. But underneath the sparkling electric guitars and crackling acoustic drums is the same terrific song-craft and unflinching vulnerability that are Jurado's most indelible and endearing marks. As on previous outings (Ghost of David, Rehearsals for Departure), dark comments on human frailty are wrapped in achingly beautiful, understated pop structures accented by Jurado's immediate and distinctive vocals.
I Break Chairs places loss, despair, alienation and disillusionment alongside a shimmering sliver of redemption. Guitar feedback from the angry "Dancing" segues into the elliptical, bright affirmation of "Birdcage." Glockenspiel, slowly strummed rhythmic guitar and a double vocal frame "Air Show Disaster," a gorgeous little jewel with a somber, fatalistic ring ("They listen to me 'cause I'm the one who makes them famous/ It's another nice day for an air show disaster").
The only real clunker on the album is "The Way You Look," where Jurado mates an uninteresting melody with an equally uninteresting lyric and makes it worse with the addition of an ungodly -- and infuriatingly ubiquitous -- analog synthesizer lead.
But things rebound quickly with "Like Titanic," wherein the songwriter relates the visceral though fleeting joys found within a relationship on a knife's edge ("We go dancing and we set fires/ We tell secrets and tell them lies"). When he admits "I have many questions, places I can go/I don't know the meaning of no trespassing" you can't help but relate.
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