A trip to “Maraqopa” with Damien Jurado

Exploring urban-folk musician Damien Jurado’s ineffable dream turned latest album, “Maraqopa.”

Shannon Ryan

 

 

Singer-songwriter Damien Jurado has built up a strong catalog of music in the indie-folk scene. And with detours in pop, Christian rock and electric indie rock, Jurado ensures that his body of work is impossible to pin down. The Seattle native’s moody vocal delivery and knack for delivering a memorable hook in his tracks has quietly built the musician a heady inventory of albums. His label, Secretly Canadian, released his latest full-length, “Maraqopa,” in February 2012, bringing his total collection to 12 studio albums.

Jurado’s musings on his records are as varied as the genres his work can be classified as — 2010’s “Saint Bartlett” was the 12-track tale of a friend’s living realities, and “Maraqopa” is the ineffable narrative of a fictional dream character born out of Jurado’s mind in early 2011.

“I remember having the dream and being so freaked out by it that I got up immediately and went to find a piece of paper, and I scrawled the word Maraqopa down,” Jurado said. “And I remember my wife said, ‘You spelled it wrong,’ and I said, ‘No, that’s exactly how it’s spelled.’”

And within a week of the dream, all 10 tracks of “Maraqopa” were written. The artist insisted it was the most vivid dream he’d ever had. The plot of Jurado’s vision-turned-concept album is one of a famous man disappearing from the small town of “Maraqopa” and leaving no traces of his whereabouts.

The album’s tracks are a mix of viewpoints of those who were familiar with Maraqopa’s disappearing celeb — journalists, fans and publicists — and from the mind of the star himself.

“‘Working Titles’ is from the viewpoint of the fan,” Jurado said. “And the line ‘You’re no him, but he’s you, only better’ is a stab at the guy’s public image. They’re saying that’s not him, and even though it looks good, they know his personal life is terrible.”

Jurado compared his dream character to legendary Nirvana rocker Kurt Cobain and the public’s emotions surrounding his death. Jurado insisted many people were sad but also angry at Cobain’s decision to end his life, comparing those emotions to those of the fans who are vexed at the disappearance of Maraqopa’s most well-known man.

Though the premise for the album is based on ideas from Jurado’s subconscious mind, the tracks are still entirely familiar and easily identifiable. His lyrics are laced with longing and love, drenched in the sort of steady melodic rain that his native city is known for. However, Jurado admits his work is for the most part entirely fictional, ostensibly because the musician seeks solace in places outside of the spotlight.

“I don’t like singing about me; I don’t like being in the spotlight. Some artists love it — it’s a real release, very cathartic — but I can’t do it,” Jurado said. “I don’t like it.”