OKKERVIL RIVER, DAMIEN JURADO | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Buzzed and beloved, OKKERVIL RIVER has just put out The Stage Names (Jagjaguwar), its first new release since 2005's Black Sheep Boy--the others were a 2006 outtakes EP and a subsequent deluxe omnibus edition compiling both. On the new disc it sounds like these Austinites have turned to concision: their usual rambling sensibility is confined to the prosey, free-associative lyrics. The music is grand, dark-toned indie pop with a grounding in country and Britpop and very old-school R & B, and refreshingly, the band manages to keep it simple, a feat that should help stick these long-awaited songs where they belong--in heads.

And Now That I'm in Your Shadow (Secretly Canadian), DAMIEN JURADO's eighth full-length, is a pure, beautiful, and perfectly coherent specimen of the singer-songwriter's craft. Be forewarned, though, that the cohesion takes the form of unrelenting tragedy, pain, and bitterness. In song after song lovers (like love itself) are lost forever, shot dead in houses or found dead in ditches--Jurado makes Richard Thompson sound like a motivational speaker. But listening to him becomes an unkickable habit, like picking at a very lovely scab to the mournful tune of a violin. He now leads a full-time trio with multi-instrumentalist Eric Fisher and cellist Jenna Conrad.

Okkervil River headlines and Jurado opens. a 9:30 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15. A --Monica Kendrick

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