Published May 06, 2020Twenty-five years and 15 albums into a career that is especially remarkable in how infrequently it is remarked upon, Damien Jurado provides yet another quietly magnificent album. What's New, Tomboy? feels like a traveler finding new footing after a storm at sea. The second album after the death of longtime friend and producer Richard Swift, it follows last year's In the Shape of a Storm, a simple guitar-and-voice album recorded in just two hours of studio time. Tomboy is still spare, but features a few self-produced flourishes, helped along by multi-instrumentalist Josh Gordon, which sound very Swift-like. There's also "Ochoa," a tribute to Swift that features the sad and troubling chorus, "Far from me / But not for long."
One of Jurado's greatest strengths is his ability to express emotions, truths and transcendent moments through brief character studies. Like a minimalist graphic designer, he is able to scratch out a few stark lines that convey a complex idea with the emotional wallop of a two-hour melodrama. Eloquence and tragedy are his companions, as on "Fool Maria," when he sings, "We are fiction as it's written / The bleeding ink on paper / Quiet as an aeroplane / Before it hits the mountain / We are song / We are gone."
Damien Jurado deserves to be better recognized. But in rock music, the grand gesture, the plum opening slot for veteran superstars and the theme song for a buzz-worthy HBO show are the paths that trump a suitcase full of near-perfect folk songs dragged from town to town for a few decades. Do yourself a favour, though —, take a listen to what's in that suitcase. It's really worth the time.
(Mama Bird Recording Co.)