We’re all trying to do more with less these days. Ditto Seattle singer-songwriter Damien Jurado. His 15th album and third release in as many years is apparently the musical manifestation of his own personal Marie Kondo moment: After divesting himself of many worldly possessions that did not spark joy (including several guitars he reportedly gave away to a thrift store), he took a likeminded approach to his latest batch of songs, paring them down and purposely leaving out certain instruments to create spaces for your mind to fill in the blanks. Which is not to suggest these tunes sound stark, abbreviated or insufficient; many of the tracks feature a full band, and even at his quietest and simplest, Jurado’s tenderly beautiful songwriting and softly sanded pipes more than compensate for any musical gaps. His loss is your gain. Here comes the spark.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Throughout his 25-year career, Damien Jurado has been chasing the ghosts of the words in his songs. He rummaged restlessly between fiction and reality. He disappeared into disembodied dreamscapes and received resplendent visions. He returned to earthbound plains estranged by a world gone more cold and callous. He sifted through fogs of the past for unblemished truths. And throughout these myriad avenues and trials, Jurado came out none the wiser. It’s the damnedest thing when you think about it: a man who can paint such intricate scenes with each line leaving his lips, still sounding completely lost. The architect of his own unsolvable puzzle. What’s New, Tomboy? is an album that seeks respite in bare minimums and barren revelations: sometimes frail, sometimes affirming, sometimes wry, and usually a threadbare mix of all those sentiments. It could be considered Damien Jurado’s finest collection of music to date, with songs exuding the inviting warmth of a lone porch light gleaming amidst the disorienting darkness. Though more stripped and grounded in their execution, songs like Sandra, Ochoa and Alice Hyatt are generous and candid in their vocabulary, eschewing the sometimes abstruse imagery of Jurado’s previous releases. “There is no hiding on these tracks.” Though What’s New, Tomboy? is the first Damien Jurado record that ends with a question mark, he has never sounded more assured and content in giving up his ghosts: “I’m only living sentences // That were long before I got here.”