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Damien Jurado with Hannah Frances
“Play on, there’s no such thing as better days,” Damien Jurado sings on “Roger,” the sweeping wash of a song that opens Reggae Film Star, his 18th full length album and second release from Jurado’s own Maraqopa Records label. But as he enters his 25th year as a recording artist, it’s clear these are, at the least, very good days for Jurado on the creative front. In these 12 songs, which evoke half-recalled dreams and overheard conversations, the cosmic rushes headlong into the autobiographical and specific moments on the clock fade from past to future to scenes set only in the eternal now.
Produced by Jurado with multi-instrumentalist Josh Gordon and recording engineer Alex Bush at Sonikwire studio in Irvine,CA, Jurado’s home away from home and musical headquarters, the record’s compositions are among the most musically rich in his vast discography, encompassing romantic AM gold, ‘60s psychedelia, driving rock & roll, Latin shuffles, and left of the dial ambiance. Strings swell, melodic bass bubbles, and piano sparkles, undergirding Jurado’s unmistakable voice, at once intimately present and ghostly, grounded in the here and now but capable, at any moment, of drifting off into the divinatory. Following threads established by 2021’s The Monster Who Hated Pennsylvania, the album sees Jurado embracing his auteur era, penning vignettes that arrive with little fanfare and depart quicker than you might suspect, only to linger long after they wrap.
A quarter-century in, Jurado remains gripped by his visions and driven by an unmatched creative drive. Reggae Film Star is one of Damien Jurado’s finest works to date, a stunning new feature from one of indie rock’s most cinematic figures. Here on this sound stage, you are the camera, you are the scene, you are the setting, and you are the viewer. Please try not to blink.
-Jason P. Woodbury