Two ambrosial angels take shape in Athens, Ga.
Like the gilt pages of an oft-read religious tome, the sweet, supple voices of Azure Ray's Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor promise delight. On their sophomore CD-EP, November, Azure Ray descend on invisible wires to tempt us with their vision of what paradise might look like—a peaceful place where one is not afraid to cry or experience the strength of the feminine. Gentle acoustic guitars, bowed bass, and faded keyboards form the foundation for the music, while Fink and Taylor seem to float over the top, their breathy altos ebbing and flowing in soft waves. Occasionally, as on "Other Than This World," a picked acoustic guitar line dances alongside them—a third, otherworldly voice in the haze. There is minimal percussion, tempos rarely vary above slow, and all keys are distinctly minor. This all combines to make Azure Ray's vision of paradise melancholy. But like most things beautiful to human ears, November easily overshadows the dolor: The cover of Townes Van Zandt's "For the Sake of This Song" is as bittersweet as dark chocolate and almost as addictive. As devoted martyrs, we hit the repeat button again and again, weeping each time through and wondering how sorrow can be so lovely. Tizzy Asher
See Azure Ray at the Paradox, Wed., Feb. 27.
DAMIEN JURADO AND GATHERED IN SONG
I Break Chairs
Urban folk legend wanders into the alt-country.
Blame it on the fact that this is singer/ songwriter Damien Jurado's first album with a full band, or blame it on the fact that the storyteller has toyed with pretty much every other genre while perfecting his own version of indie folk. Either way, I Break Chairs is infused with so much poppy twang rock that songs like "Paperwings" and "Dancing" could be mistaken for lost Uncle Tupelo tracks. But ardent fans of Jurado's woeful cautionary tales need not worry; just four songs into the album, "Inevitable" will assuage your addiction. "Inevitable" is neoclassic Jurado: Quiet, lingering lyrics swab at sour sentiments while jangly instrumentation gives the song a lush, evocative background without ever overshadowing the story. Three tracks later, the Matthew Sweet-ish "Big Deal" brings the album back around to its rootsy, pop-perfect beginnings. On "Like Titanic," Jurado ties it all together with a track that could slip onto Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska. Balanced on the quiet fuzz of lightly fedback guitar and twinkling glockenspiel interludes, "Like Titanic" delineates the absolute beauty of being young, broke, a little insane, and a lot in love. "Like Titanic" also contains the key to the album's disclaimer/title with the vocal bridge "Some say boredom/it's a killer/ you end up breaking hearts like chairs." Laura Learmonth
Damien Jurado and Gathered in Song play the Crocodile on Sat., Feb. 23