Purple Mountains (RIP David Berman, August 2019)

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diggin this a lot. that last joos record was kind of a let down and i was (initially) pretty indifferent to Tanglewood #s. came around on that one though.

A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Chooglin (will), Saturday, 13 July 2019 01:24 (ten months ago) link

this record would be just as good if it was just D and his guitar.

Eh, I dunno about that. He could've done that if he wanted to, but what's the point? He's my favorite songwriter because of the lyrics, but he's also one of my favorite artists because he's always been so willing to partner with musician friends who are more proficient at their instruments than he is. Like so many others, I only got into him because I became a disciple of Malkmus's style in the late nineties, and then when I eventually found out about how Malkmus had played on this kickass collaboration with an old friend who so clearly eclipsed him lyrically, called American Water, I was blown away. Most all of the Silver Jews recordings, save for a stripped-down singer-and-his-guitar track here and there ("Death of an Heir of Sorrows," and basically "Pretty Eyes"), have been about partnerships with likeminded individuals who were happy to set the physical setting for the words to live in, and that's what's built his cult, so why mess with a winning formula?

del griffith, Saturday, 13 July 2019 02:26 (ten months ago) link

hey man I hear you
I mean there may be some nice instrumental passages - that jam on American water for instance - but I thinks he’s a writer

calstars, Saturday, 13 July 2019 02:30 (ten months ago) link

he is! you're not wrong. and Woods are players. and when writers meet players, baby that's a fruitful marriage

del griffith, Saturday, 13 July 2019 02:34 (ten months ago) link

lol
sometimes maybe

calstars, Saturday, 13 July 2019 02:36 (ten months ago) link

I think the Woods guys brought *a lot* to this record, both in terms of ideas and in really solid performance. the music sounds more substantive / less secondary here than on any of the Joooooos records.

alpine static, Saturday, 13 July 2019 04:58 (ten months ago) link

which is not to say that Berman didn't bring a lot. lyrics are amazing, and his singing is relatively strong.

alpine static, Saturday, 13 July 2019 04:59 (ten months ago) link

Finally gripped my copy of this yesterday and after spinning it 1.5 times I can tell I’m gonna be listening to it all summer, really really digging it

One Eye Open, Saturday, 13 July 2019 15:02 (ten months ago) link

This is the saddest record to make me feel really happy

circa1916, Saturday, 13 July 2019 15:11 (ten months ago) link

Like a jubilant embrace of the abyss

circa1916, Saturday, 13 July 2019 15:12 (ten months ago) link

nah, he's just playing chicken with oblivion

calstars, Saturday, 13 July 2019 15:19 (ten months ago) link

This is so fucking good. Musically, it picks up all the best ideas from latter-day Joos (Bright Flight onward), but I feel like the music is doing *so much more* of the heavy lifting than on any of those albums; and the extra space that creates allows Berman's beautifully turned words to land with that much more force.

Or, in a nutshell, this:

Snow Is Falling in Manhattan + Nights That Won't Happen <3

― triggercut, Friday, 12 July 2019 10:47 (yesterday) link


...which is totally not what I expected to feel about the album before my first listen! Berman's done excellent longer songs before, but usually they're like these Dylanesque shaggy dog stories in simple strophic forms where the fun is in hearing him pile up unlikely lyrical inventions, verse after verse after verse. These have none of that manic "San Francisco B.C." energy; they tap into a warm place of simple human connection that he's visited briefly before (e.g. "I'm Getting Back Into Getting Back Into You") and then they just..... linger there. And it's utterly captivating!

Keep poltiics OUT of Dancing!!!! (bernard snowy), Saturday, 13 July 2019 15:27 (ten months ago) link

Also I love how "Margaritas at the Mall" takes the apocalyptic dread vibes of "Time Will Break the World"/"My Pillow is the Threshold" and balances them out with an honest-to-goodness chorus

Keep poltiics OUT of Dancing!!!! (bernard snowy), Saturday, 13 July 2019 15:37 (ten months ago) link

You nailed it re: "Margaritas at the Mall." He definitely is channeling the same existential frustration that he did in "Time Will Break the World," but with so much more backbone this time. That song always felt overly lugubrious to me, like trying to hang out with a goth kid in high school who you knew deep down meant well but honestly you were embarrassed to be seen around. "Margaritas at the Mall" at least looks you in the eye when it talks.

I'd disagree that the record is a "jubilant embrace of the abyss." If he'd laid around for another few years further dissolving into stasis and not working on a project, that'd be embracing the abyss. If he'd done nothing with additional chemical assistance, that'd be more chicken with oblivion. This record is him actively resisting the abyss, kind of like what he was going for on Tanglewood Numbers and Lookout Mountain, but without the giddy cutesiness that kinda irked me, and a lot more of the heartfelt twists that drew me in in the first place. This is a proper example of what you get when artists take a generously long time to think about what they want to say before they say it.

del griffith, Saturday, 13 July 2019 16:19 (ten months ago) link

the virtues of getting banned from websites for trolling (which he admits happened to him)

the Heart of a Poster

A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Chooglin (will), Saturday, 13 July 2019 16:48 (ten months ago) link

Apropos of the abortive Bejar collaboration (mentioned in one of the interview pieces linked upthread), it strikes me that "Snow is Falling in Manhattan" would be right at home in the soundscape of Destroyer's Rubies

Keep poltiics OUT of Dancing!!!! (bernard snowy), Sunday, 14 July 2019 00:51 (ten months ago) link

Man I always kinda disliked Destroyer/Bejar but maybe it’s time to re-evaluate.

circa1916, Sunday, 14 July 2019 02:48 (ten months ago) link

he's doing a Reddit AMA in a few hours if anyone wants to ask him if he really stuck his dick in an anthill

del griffith, Monday, 15 July 2019 18:44 (ten months ago) link

dg, could you please post the link when it goes live?

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Monday, 15 July 2019 19:20 (ten months ago) link

"snow in falling in manhattan" is easily my least favorite song on here. i do think the woods dudes bring a lot of nice elements and playing to this album though.

na (NA), Monday, 15 July 2019 19:25 (ten months ago) link

dg, could you please post the link when it goes live?

would if I could! I don't Reddit, personally, all I know is this:

pic.twitter.com/CpSy9etToe

— Silver Jews (@silverjews) July 15, 2019


and this:
https://www.reddit.com/r/indieheads/comments/ccdwtp/ama_announcement_purple_mountains_david_berman_on/

del griffith, Monday, 15 July 2019 19:29 (ten months ago) link

re: last time he jammed w/ Malkmus

in the studio in Vancouver.

Everyone else in the building was enjoying what a fun, funny guy he is; so I couldn't get him to concentrate. Plus the family back home is a constant pull.

But we have plans to co-write an album in Albania. That's a far enough awayplace no one will laugh at his jokes and we will get some work done.

lol

alpine static, Tuesday, 16 July 2019 00:46 (ten months ago) link

and he'll get him to smoke some pot again!

del griffith, Tuesday, 16 July 2019 00:52 (ten months ago) link

Love the idea of Berman playing the stern teacher to Malkmus’ talented but distracting class clown.

triggercut, Tuesday, 16 July 2019 01:23 (ten months ago) link

the pot thing was good, but i especially love Berman being annoyed that SM was making everyone laugh and love him. so good.

alpine static, Tuesday, 16 July 2019 01:29 (ten months ago) link

he didn't express annoyance, mind you. i'm reading into it.

alpine static, Tuesday, 16 July 2019 01:29 (ten months ago) link

here we go:

I mean this genuinely; without the contempt of critics like you, i would never have
the fight in me to live. thank you. https://t.co/22MODoE1OJ

— purple mountains (@prplmtns) July 15, 2019

alpine static, Tuesday, 16 July 2019 01:34 (ten months ago) link

of all the interesting things DCB has said in these recent interviews, the one that stands out to me is that it was a middling P4k review that - at least in large enough part to mention 10 years later - drove him away from music.

alpine static, Tuesday, 16 July 2019 01:35 (ten months ago) link

Wow, just when you thought you could not have any less respect for Pitchfork...

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Tuesday, 16 July 2019 02:20 (ten months ago) link

Tbh I'm more impressed when people notice bad reviews and move swiftly on, like Will Sheff did - a brief mention in a single lyric, just enough to register offense, then onto more interesting subjects.

Simon H., Tuesday, 16 July 2019 02:57 (ten months ago) link

I’m not necessarily impressed by that but I get it, and n some level. Middling reviews can be more discouraging than a fully negative review, sometimes.

One Eye Open, Tuesday, 16 July 2019 03:14 (ten months ago) link

I know at least one other musician of Berman’s Stature who stopped after the self-consciousness following a middling Pitchfork review.

Anyway, I’m probably completely off-base, but I had picture: “Snow is Falling in Manhattan” as being about Berman showing up busted in NYC and crashing on Malkmus’s couch.

... (Eazy), Tuesday, 16 July 2019 03:27 (ten months ago) link

getting mad about a bad review of your music is a good sign that maybe you should do something else

brimstead, Tuesday, 16 July 2019 03:32 (ten months ago) link

Not getting mad so much as getting hurt, especially if it’s psychoanalyzing the musician and not the music.

... (Eazy), Tuesday, 16 July 2019 03:36 (ten months ago) link

xpost? why would artists be able to separate themselves from criticism? everyone gets upset about being criticized in all kinds of work

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Tuesday, 16 July 2019 03:39 (ten months ago) link

Tbh I'm more impressed when people notice bad reviews and move swiftly on, like Will Sheff did - a brief mention in a single lyric, just enough to register offense, then onto more interesting subjects.

uh, I don't know who Will Sheff is, but I'm more impressed by any artist who doesn't mention any of their album reviews in their lyrics.

I wonder how many clicks per week pitchfork would lose if they did away with patronizing aspies by summarizing works of art on a numerical scale.

del griffith, Tuesday, 16 July 2019 04:27 (ten months ago) link

I question my fellow artists desire to read other what other people write about them. I’m not sure how useful reading it is. Maybe I’m underestimating to what extent most musicians are lacking confidence in their work. I don’t know how it’s the same as being criticized for doing shitty work at my office job.

brimstead, Tuesday, 16 July 2019 04:40 (ten months ago) link

I guess it’s impossible to avoid if you’re serious these days, with having to be hella online and all

brimstead, Tuesday, 16 July 2019 04:41 (ten months ago) link

Been digging Storyline Fever over the last few days. The guitar riff that gets repeated throughout sounds a little New Order-ish.

triggercut, Saturday, 20 July 2019 00:16 (ten months ago) link

All My Happiness has a Joy Division-like flavour to it. The bass and the synth

Duke, Saturday, 20 July 2019 14:48 (ten months ago) link

most people lack confidence and don't like being criticized, musicians are the same as anyone else

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Saturday, 20 July 2019 14:56 (ten months ago) link

A comedian I follow sometimes talks about he avoids reading online commentary, because even one negative comment (in a sea of praise) will stick out like a sore thumb — and that’s what he’ll focus on: “Why didn’t that one guy like the show, what’s his problem?” etc.

Comedians, as a group, may be even more thin-skinned than musicians... but I am surprised whenever I learn that an artist (of any kind) reads reviews of their stuff. I don’t even get why so many of them use social media at all (especially for those who don’t need to use it for promotional purposes).

the last Berry La Croix in the work fridge (morrisp), Saturday, 20 July 2019 15:47 (ten months ago) link

I am surprised whenever I learn that an artist (of any kind) reads reviews of their stuff. I don’t even get why so many of them use social media at all (especially for those who don’t need to use it for promotional purposes).

I'm just a simple, hard-working philistine who doesn't claim to understand the high-falutin', artsy-fartsy ways of the creative class, but I suspect the main reason that an Artist might be interested to know how someone has interpreted their Art is because Artists, as a group, are mentally ill. This psychological abnormality leads the Artist to believe they are merely ordinary people like you and me, people who are typically interested in sharing their thoughts with other human beings as part of their daily lifestyle.

However, reasonable people of sound mind, such as ourselves, know better. We understand it is more appropriate that the Artist remain cloistered within an airtight bubble of solipsistic purity. There, safe from the contaminating influence of Pitchfork, SPIN, and the various social medias, the Artist must solemnly respect their self-imposed restriction on engagement with the community of Regulars, a community by which they are surrounded, but of whom they are not a part. Only in this way may the Artist's uniquely sensitive impulses be incubated and nourished.

As a result of this sacred sacrifice, we the Art-consumers are guaranteed an eternal wellspring of musical delights borne from the fractured genius of our irregular friends, the Artists. Without it, we would risk a future devoid of the "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere"s, "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy"s, or the "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk"s that enrich our lives and give them meaning.

del griffith, Saturday, 20 July 2019 20:29 (ten months ago) link

I’m sorry, there seems to be a thick haze of sarcasm obscuring the point you’re trying to make.

the last Berry La Croix in the work fridge (morrisp), Saturday, 20 July 2019 20:48 (ten months ago) link

I think my Pavement buddy is very disappointed he just had to alert me this was David Berman and not a new psych folk bore band. I listened to All My Happiness Is Gone and was meh on it until it turned into a Camera Obscura song. Silver Jews was the show in nyc that broke me on being over going to shows in nyc. They had the absolute worst audience.

Yerac, Saturday, 20 July 2019 21:28 (ten months ago) link

As an artist I go to extraordinary lengths to avoid seeing any reviews or criticism of what I do, and what I do is probably less than 1% as personal & soul-exposing as the average Silver Jews record, I can absolutely see how a bad or lukewarm review could throw his system out of whack

“Hakuna Matata,” a nihilist philosophy (One Eye Open), Saturday, 20 July 2019 21:37 (ten months ago) link

As an artist I go to extraordinary lengths to avoid seeing any reviews or criticism of what I do

But do you share your art with your friends and family? Wouldn't their opinion mean more to you than that of someone you don't know personally? If your art is more than a commodity to you, then why would you care about the opinion of someone who treats it as such?

del griffith, Saturday, 20 July 2019 22:24 (ten months ago) link

this is such an absurd conversation, musicians and artists are just people.

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Saturday, 20 July 2019 22:46 (ten months ago) link

Regardless of everything else on the subject, I was still bummed out to read that Berman was so negatively affected by that review. Perhaps it's easy to not immediately understand why this gifted lyricist of his stature would have his confidence knocked so hard

PaulTMA, Saturday, 20 July 2019 22:52 (ten months ago) link


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