Damien Jurado is a gifted songwriter, but he's always had trouble finding the right pacing and tone for his albums. His beautiful depression can be enormously engaging when it's balanced with more upbeat moments, and a drag when it isn't; his muscular moments work best in measured doses. (Witness his only full-on rocker, 2002's I Break Chairs, for Jurado gone too wild.) And Now That I'm In Your Shadow, his eighth full-length if the sound-collage Postcards And Audio Letters counts, errs on the side of melancholy, living once again in the comfortable world of early Will Oldham and Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen.
Which isn't to say it's bad—the opposite usually holds—just that it's a little wearying. Jurado does downtrodden and mournful better than most, but concentrated strings of songs about being "restless 'til my death," "sadness in her eyes," and a hotel hospital add up to a tearstained emotional assault delivered with virtually no relief. The first song that sounds almost hopeful, "Shannon Rhodes," turns out to be about a woman murdered by her lover. Sigh. Still, in measured doses, Shadow achieves an emotional resonance rare even for the most wizened singer-songwriter. In recent years, Jurado has wisely leavened some of the brutal sadness with slightly more carefree songs; here, he goes for broke with broken hearts and lives, weighing himself down so much that there sometimes isn't enough light to appreciate the shadows.