As the back half of the new Caught In The Trees attests, Damien Jurado can write downtempo, soul-searching, hauntingly orchestrated songs with the best singer-songwriters out there. These sorts of songs, which have dominated his past few albums, seem to come naturally to him. He can wrap fragile sentiments in a gloomy mood almost effortlessly.
But what Jurado does most isn't necessarily what he does best, which is what makes the first half of Caught In The Trees so refreshing. Hearkening back to Jurado's lovely 2003 album Where Shall You Take Me?, the opening tracks on Caught In The Trees bring a lightness and a pulse back to his songcraft. The stripped-down sound and accelerated pace of songs like "Caskets" and "Trials" put Jurado's gloomy sentiments in propulsive new homes, and the album-opening "Gillian Was A Horse" bounces along in such a catchy way that its elliptical lines about small-town gossipmongers and deaths in library carports sound deceptively cheery. Jurado has few rivals in writing dirges, but Trees suggests he'd do well to break the dirge habit more often.