Damien Jurado has offered up a fourth album that is filled with mid-tempo ballads and little else. Each track has a formulaic and repetitive arrangement, and by the time you sift through 13 different songs, it begins to wear a little thin. Everything here sounds like a musical melting pot where no one was quite sure of what they were doing: Is it Southern rock, singer/songwriter, bluegrass, country, etc.? It all kind of plays out like some form of rootsy chaos.
The only two songs that stand above the rest are “Gillian Was a Horse,” which has an earthy pop feel, and the apocalyptic bounce of “Paper Kite,” which offers sweet relief.
The vocals aren’t Jurado’s issue here — his voice has a unique blend of Conor Oberst’s indie sensibility and Chris Martin’s knack for pop melodies. Lyrically, the stories that Jurado tells are generally interesting enough to keep you listening, and he doesn’t lack catchy hooks; but the overall instrumentation feels thin and unimaginative throughout. Kory Krukenberg’s mix seems a little off, as if he left the treble all the way up and turned the bass all the way down.