Arriving just a year after the surprisingly eclectic and electric rock of I Break Chairs, Damien Jurado’s Where Shall You Take Me? is something of a return — but not a retreat — to the moody minimalism of albums like Ghost of David. Songs like “Amateur Night” and “Omaha” share the acoustic strumming and rustic, shuffling rhythms of his earlier work, but also have a subtly polished confidence that brings out the warmth in Jurado’s singing and playing as never before. The country and folk elements always present in his music come to the fore on “Abilene” and “Window,” which, with its sweet, close harmonies, borrows equally from the traditions of bluegrass and hymns. A devotional thread runs through Where Shall You Take Me?, particularly on its second half, where “I Can’t Get Over You” and “Tether” contrast love’s complexities with deceptively simple melodies and arrangements. Overall, the album is less challenging than I Break Chairs, although “Texas to Ohio” recalls that work’s Springsteen-influenced rock sound and the spooky, drum machine-driven “Intoxicated Hands” is a beautifully brooding ballad that rivals Jurado’s darkest moments. While Where Shall You Take Me? might be less ambitious than its predecessor, it certainly has its own compelling charms; the album has an off the cuff, direct feel that suggests it was recorded with a few friends over the course of an afternoon, particularly on songs like “Matinee.” More importantly, Jurado’s singing and songwriting are affecting in virtually any setting and on any scope. Where Shall You Take Me? is a small triumph, but a triumph nonetheless.
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