Album review: "Saint Bartlett"
Indie singer-songwriter Damien Jurado has made a decade-plus career out of bleak, melancholy songs. But his latest album, "Saint Bartlett," is an engaging listen, even though it doesn't stray far from his reflective tradition.
Jurado's laid-back style often recalls the detached slacker-folk of Bill Callahan's Smog, without the gloomy monotone. Instead, Jurado's voice is wavering and understated; he channels the psychedelic pop of the Flaming Lips on the dreamy "Cloudy Shoes" and gives a hint of Americana on the desperate "Kalama." And backed only by a simply plucked guitar, his voice has a haunting air on the album-closing "With Lightning in Your Hands."
Above all else, though, Jurado has a knack for the dreary. On the sparse "Kansas City" he murmurs, "I know some day I will return" with a dejected air of resignation. His vocals are interspersed with snippets of what sound like radio static, making Jurado seem even more remote and inaccessible, and the static engulfs his voice as the song trails off. It's a bit of an abrupt ending, even for Jurado, but it does underscore the song's isolated tone.
-- Catherine P. Lewis, June 2010