Track: E.R. Jurken – ‘John Doe’: a single drop of melodic harrow ahead of Friday’s album

E.R. Jurken, photographed by Matthew Keeth

E.R. JURKEN is a singer-songwriter with a deeply moving, beautiful and fragile take on psych-pop with a 1968 Anglophile twist and a Neutral Milk Hotel twirl to his aesthetic, for whom Drag City have initiated a whole new boutique imprint, Country Thyme; you just know they know when they’re on to a good thing.

E.R. himself then, or Ed to his friends; who he? He drifted, we’re told, through this twenties and thirties, scrabbling a life together as so many of us do; never quite finding the slot into which his personal piece fitted. He’d been well into music, sure, had dabbled in its creation itself; things came to a sour head in the Bay Area of California, one life fracture after another rending 2012 untenable; so he sold up, the whole shebang including his instrument collection, and began a peripatetic period that trailed through New Orleans, Milwaukee and finally to Chicago. Home, of course, to a very, very fine musical tradition.

With a little help from his friends once settled in the Windy City, he began demoing songs on his phone, turning out one a week; sessions at the legendary The Loft brought a complete realisation of those songs that came from brain to phone to … your record deck as the album I Stand Corrected.

We loved his first single drop, “Colonels Of The Morning”, a delicous kohl-eyed gaze from a doorway in Bloomsbury, leading down to a whole treasure chest of delights, freak-folk supreme among them.

This very afternoon he’s dropped as a single “John Doe”, from the darker obverse of that forthcoming album, because it really is very much a record of two sides; side the first presents as a suite of eight tunes, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, before gradually darkening towards and through the second side; the lyricism is singalong melodic but also opaque, just offering glimpses that something, somewhere, is awry.

“John Doe” is, of course, named for protocol for bestowing some humanity on an unidentified body. It’s a cute lullaby in 3/4, at least on the surface, Ed’s voice trembling with barely-soothed emotion. Dig deep into that voice and it’ll raise a tear … “they hold me down”, he sings at one point. Is it one of those points when life torrents through, the brain fizzes, intervention is required?

There’s only a hint and that’s enough, don’t look too closely. It has this weird tremulous beauty, from which you could fall either way and fall far. There’s medics and 40 years of some darkness; a family affair; all rendered with a baroque harmony that will put you in mind of the raw, naked delivery of Jeff Mangum, transposed through the best of American acoustic singer-songwriters and back to the Sixties auteur.

Serendipitously, we published our review of the album this very morning and you can find that here; we encapsulated it thus: “An album with tragedy, an album full of psych-pop; I wonder if, like Liam Hayes did with Plush, he’ll push out from this opening More You Becomes You to the full-blown baroque realisation of Fed. It’d be great to see, on the strength of this.

“A prediction for you; the way the narrative and the songcraft combine, I reckon I Stand Corrected, is pretty much nailed on to get its own 33 1/3 book one day into the future. One to savour; one to ponder, too.”

E.R. Jurken’s I Stand Corrected will be released digitally and on vinyl on April 23rd; it’s up for pre-order now. Step this way, if you would.

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