Damien Jurado’s “The Shape of a Storm”

The most honest love songs are those tinged with a hint of melancholy. Perhaps it’s the paintbrush of the romantic that has colored my perception, but I’ve gravitated to these types of songs for as long as I can remember. Keep the saccharine affection for someone else; I want the song that crumbles up the fairytale and acknowledges that its lead characters have been through some shit.

Though it wasn’t always this way, I think part of that tendency has to do with recognizing how much of the end is wrapped up in the beginning. I mean that there’s a time limit. Perhaps it’s a few months, or a few years, or even a few decades, but no relationship lasts forever. It can’t. I understand how all of this might sound rather glum, but I think it’s bold. There’s something inordinately lovely about seeing risk and jumping after the chance anyway, about being hurt and trying again.

I’ve lately been gravitating to “The Shape of a Storm,” from Seattle singer-songwriter Damien Jurado‘s 2019 album In the Shape of a Storm. Jurado is an inimitable lyricist. He penned one of my favorite lines, which flutters into my brain every now and then like a gift: “I want you and the skyline/ These are my demands” (from “Working Titles“).

“The Shape of a Storm” is no different. It’s a sparse love song that blossoms slowly, beginning with a somber acoustic guitar before Jurado’s voice fills the space. “Strange as it seems/ I have known you before/ But it was not our time yet,” he sings with an air of knowing patience.

His longing registers on the chorus, imagining the risk it will take to bridge the gap between them. “If I go sailing into the unknown/ What are my chances of ever reaching your shore?” Jurado sings, his voice rising with the hope hidden behind the question. But that crest doesn’t last long. “Into the deep I am thrown,” he admits, returning to his lower register. A second guitar practically shimmers in the background, adding whimsical flourishes.

The song’s sadness may feel bigger by dint of the fact that Jurado’s songs tend in that direction. There’s something about his spare constructions—largely his voice and guitar—that create a sober quiet. “The Shape of a Storm” is ultimately a song about wanting and waiting, looking for a moment that has only ever been felt but not fully lived…yet. I love the promise Jurado holds tight to his chest, as if believing were enough for the moment. Sometimes that’s all it takes.