Reggae Film Star
Arriving 25 years after his debut album Waters Ave. S., Damien Jurado’s Reggae Film Star finds the Seattle singer-songwriter a few months from 50, wrestling with the weight of that milestone through the lens of a cinematographer. These poetic folk-pop ballads, which are almost mystical in nature, unfold like filmstrips spliced together from faded memories. “Poor attendance, Reader’s Digest/Talk show topic, Norman Alden/Multi-camera, Mount St. Helens/1980, ashes, ashes,” he sings on “Ready for My Close Up,” a reflective tune full of old Hollywood imagery (Pan Am, jukeboxes, pay phones, and 1980s sitcom actors like Richard Sanders and Charles Levin). Occasionally, the filmmaking theme is implemented more literally: On “Meeting Eddie Smith” and “The Pain of No Return,” Jurado sings from the perspective of a director recalling their early days, brainstorming shots and staging scenes, full of promise and possibility. It’s unclear whether these are glimpses into his own memory bank or a larger metaphor for what it feels like to age as an artist, but Jurado makes each vignette feel intimate and real (“Taped in Front of a Live Studio Audience,” for example, is a rambling first-person account of the routine banality of midlife). Still, he's far from down and out. Despite all the gloomy nostalgia and retrospection, there is a quiet sense that the show must go on—even if it means taking a breath and starting over.