Damien Jurado’s Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Sun is a barking mad “dream” concept album – but a great one.
I have a mixed view of concept albums. At best, they are all-encompassing and wonderful things. At worst, well – they’re just about as bad as it gets. I think of all musical theatre productions as two-hour concept albums with usually terrible results.
However, there are some concept albums that can be enjoyed whether you buy in to the concept or not, and Damien Jurado’s new album is one such record. On the one hand, the overall concept would make Mrs Rochester look comparatively well adjusted. It is based on a dream Jurado had a few years ago. Most of the track titles begin with the word “Silver” because everyone in Jurado’s dream lived in a world called Maraqopa and had a name with the prefix “Silver”. I don’t know about you, but my dreams are never a) that detailed or memorable and b) usually involve a catastrophic and ludicrous series of unfortunate events that occur one after another, rather than meeting a series of people named after jewellery.
I listened to an interview Jurado gave with Lauren Laverne on BBC6 Music and you could tell Laverne was in tactful mode, listening attentively as Jurado spelled out his vision whilst some part of her, at least, wanted to cry out “What the hell is this all about you weird-crazy-hippy-dude?!!!” Or perhaps that’s just me…
However, the reason, I suspect, that she didn’t is because the album is a wonderful thing. It is varied, uplifting, and if it was inspired by a concept, then so be it, but I am happy to enjoy it for its musicality rather than any accompanying over-arching concept that I don’t quite have the patience to grasp.
To give you an idea of what this album sounds like isn’t easy as it hops across a number of genres. The first five songs reference or reminded me of, in turn, The Flaming Lips, Milton Nascimento, Fleet Foxes, Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, and Deep Purple’s Child In Time. Perhaps the nearest recent comparison is Matthew E White: if you were a fan of White’s recent album The Big Inner – which appeared on a few best of 2012 lists – then this ought to be right up your alley.
This is Damien Jurado’s eleventh album. He’s a singer/songwriter from Seattle, Washington, originally signed to Sub Pop in 1995 and has recorded his last three albums with The Shins’ Richard Swift as producer, and this collaboration appears to have rejuvenated his career.
Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Sun’s theme may be quite mad, but it benefits from the variety of its music. It ends with two songs: the stripped back acoustic “Silver Joy” which is just Jurado and his guitar, which is a joy indeed, followed by the dream-pop of “Suns In Our Mind”. As a soundtrack to the first days of spring, I can’t think of a better album right now.