‘What’s New, Tomboy?’ is the 15th album from Seattle-born Damien Jurado. It’s a relatively short offer at around 30 minutes long. And there’s both a lot and not very much packed into that time. Let us explain. Most of the tracks are simply guitar and Jurado’s voice. He comments: “I left out certain instruments on purpose, so you’re making space for the listener to fill in their own melodies and parts.” With each song laid out in such a stripped-back form, is there a danger that there’s not enough substance?
It’s a mellow record for sure. Absolutely in the realm of folk-pop. Jurado’s hushed vocal delivery is a calming trickle of poetry that keeps you entranced. This is what holds it all together. There’s no rush in this album. It’s incredibly reassuring and warming. There are some odd moments, a weird drum machine sound on tracks like ‘Frankie’ and ‘When You Were Few’.
This is not an album seeking commercial approval. Indeed, only ‘Alice Hyatt’ features a pleasingly repetitive chorus “there are things, there are people”. For the most part the album sticks to melancholy very similar in style to Nick Drake. This is seen clearly on ‘Arthur Aware’ and ‘Fool Maria’ where Jurado considers life’s journey and the experiences along the way. On ‘The End of the Road’ he explores his need for support while providing that unwavering support himself stating simply “I will be with you at the end of the road” but also “I need you”.
‘What’s New, Tomboy?’ creates a background atmosphere that washes over you rather than grabbing your attention and making you listen.