Review Summary: Celebrate the Americas.
Damien Jurado is an incredibly prominent musician, whose career spans over two decades and over a dozen albums. This is a man, who doesn’t appear to be a superstar artist from aside, nor does he have the appeal of stadium headliner. Damien is never detached from reality with his stardom and he mostly poises the appeal of someone you’d most likely go out for a beer with. That is his charm, that is his vibe; he is someone just like you, a down-to-earth bloke with his own problems, a job, a hobby, probably a mortgage, a car that keeps breaking down, a headful of bittersweet memories and coincidentally a prolific musical career and massive lyrical ingenuity.
Thematically, this album is down-to-earth, but musically it is like levitation. You feel an incredible rush of looseness and calm. The songs are subdued, but they never come off as depressed, depressive or trying hard to tear you up. The vocals are quiet and echoic, but never downtrodden, rather trying to –with lyrical help – engulf you with warmth and safety of the nostalgia they dedicate these canticles to. And while in the past, Damien has been keen on experimenting with more typical indie rock influences on I Break Chairs
, slightly orchestral arrangements on Saint Bartlett
, country influence of Caught in the Trees
or something downright psychedelic Visions of Us on the Land
, The Horizon Just Laughed
is easily his most non-explosive (apart from its closer) and soulful record yet, where he barely has a loud moment. Everything here is about the calm, the quiet and the free-flowing haziness.
“Allocate”, the album’s opener, is quite possibly (and surprisingly) the most extravagant cut on the whole record, featuring background strings, somewhat fuzzy lo-fi production of some of the instruments and foggy atmosphere. But right after that it is as if Damien set himself a challenge to make that very arrangement work the exact opposite way, creating atmosphere as simple as possible, with “Dear Thomas Wolfe” being rather a feel-good catchy little sweetness than a heavy ambitious piece. All the while, that song also serves as this album’s entry into Damien’s ever continuing love letter to American states, this time cheerfully proclaiming “I’m off to Nebraska, I’m off to Maine.” And much in the same vein, “Percy Faith” is another catchy tune of a man and the America.
With that pretty much ends the playful part of the album and kicks off the serene melancholy The Horizon Just Laughed
truly is all about. “Over Rainbows and Rainier” caresses with its gentle simplicity, all the while managing to come off as absolutely gorgeous, what with Damien’s vocals mixed in a way that makes them sound like he’s right next to your ears. “The Last Great Washingotn State” also checks many of the same boxes, but also adds a distant string background. Returning to guitar-led kindness-galore, “1973”, which is also one of album’s brightest crown jewels with its melody most exquisite, instrumentation most charming and lyrics most touching. Afterwards it is a variation of the same, with lounge-folk of “Marvin Kaplan”, guitar tenderness of “Lou-Jean” and near-rock influenced “Florence-Jean”. All of that then elegantly finished by “Random Fearless”, a closer relying mostly on bluesy influences and for once some more-or-less engrossing song-writing.
If there’s anything this album is a proof of, then it’s of Damien’s ‘regular guy’ persona; a regular guy, who just has an incredible neck for poeticism and fondness of America in its most natural and sentimental way. The Horizon Just Laughed
is about as grandiose as a cup of tea on a winter evening. It is difficult to say, whether it is Damien’s most mature effort yet, but it is definitely his most mellow one.