Purple Mountains (RIP David Berman, August 2019)

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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

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, July 20, 2019 6:24 PM (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

Friends and family are typically not very reliable critics, so their opinions can't always be trusted. Of course your boyfriend thinks you make the best techno; of course your mom thinks your songs are as good as Bob Dylan's. Putting your work out into the world allows you--for better or worse--a relatively more accurate read on your talents. I'm not an artist but I imagine it's similar to the reasons I choose to see a therapist rather than just meeting a friend for a drink to discuss the same things.

Paul Ponzi, Saturday, 20 July 2019 23:41 (ten months ago) link

Is this the Pfork review in question?: https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/11916-lookout-mountain-lookout-sea/

the last Berry La Croix in the work fridge (morrisp), Saturday, 20 July 2019 23:42 (ten months ago) link

That review, in retrospect, doesn't seem especially harsh to me

Paul Ponzi, Saturday, 20 July 2019 23:46 (ten months ago) link

Friends and family are typically not very reliable critics, so their opinions can't always be trusted. Putting your work out into the world allows you--for better or worse--a relatively more accurate read on your talents.

OK maybe not family necessarily, but you choose your friends, and if you're choosing friends whose critical standards are wildly different from your own, well then you've really only got yourself to blame if you're not getting from them the meaningful feedback you're seeking. And to another point, I don't know that artists are necessarily seeking an analytical/critical judgement so much as they're seeking to merely share their thoughts, to be heard, understood, and appreciated in the same insightful and empathetic way that they do for others. At least that's how I like "my" artists to think, and I like to think David is one of "mine."

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

I agree with the second part of this statement!

del griffith, Sunday, 21 July 2019 00:28 (ten months ago) link

Euuuuuuuugggghhhhhhhhh ok I was harsh upthread, really just speaking for myself as I just couldn’t imagine getting miffed in the slightest about some writing by a stranger (sorry more glib). let alone proactively seeking out random negative criticism to help me “improve” my craft or serve as therapeutic in some way... my music is just so fucking personal to me... but I mean, I make instrumental music for my own high standards of listening pleasure and I’m never really in doubt as to whether or not I’m enjoying or not enjoying something I’ve made/am currently working on. Yeah it’s different for music with lyrics and stuff. Maybe some people are just drawn to searching bad stuff out. I know I sound totally crazy and childish, sorry, bye :-(

brimstead, Sunday, 21 July 2019 00:35 (ten months ago) link

I’m 12 years old btw

brimstead, Sunday, 21 July 2019 00:36 (ten months ago) link

That review, in retrospect, doesn't seem especially harsh to me

It's not. This whole thing has really been blown out of proportion. If I recall correctly, he merely stated in an interview that he had made his best effort for that album and then it just kind of received a middling review. So what! People are allowed to read their own review, feel that what they've created hasn't been fully appreciated, and then not get called a primadonna for offhandedly mentioning it in an interview. If he'd further internalized it and called his next album Pitchshit Mountain, Pissfork Pee, then yeah that might signal some ego issues.

del griffith, Sunday, 21 July 2019 00:42 (ten months ago) link

Uh, no, he didn't just say that he made his best effort and that it received a middling review. He said:

"It got a really average rating on Pitchfork, 6.7, and that really burned me for a long time. I really felt like, wow, I really tried as hard as I could and I really got the message back that maybe I had peaked. And so I decided to walk away from it."

I would say a review being the reason (or the final straw) for David Berman walking away from music for a decade is a pretty big deal! I don't think we've blown it out of proportion. (I also don't at all think he's a prima donna for mentioning it.)

alpine static, Sunday, 21 July 2019 01:07 (ten months ago) link

I mean everyone who's been in a band there's this sort of feeling that creeps in after awhile why the fuck are we bothering with this?

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Sunday, 21 July 2019 01:25 (ten months ago) link

I would say a review being the reason (or the final straw) for David Berman walking away from music for a decade is a pretty big deal! I don't think we've blown it out of proportion.

Alright, well, by all means then, keep talking about it until it's in the proper proportion you want it to be?

del griffith, Sunday, 21 July 2019 01:49 (ten months ago) link

You guys aren’t going to believe this, but I was just out walking and heard a guy whistling that little melody from “Living Waters.”

the last Berry La Croix in the work fridge (morrisp), Sunday, 21 July 2019 01:56 (ten months ago) link

The review isn't THAT harsh, but I feel like it's off the mark, kind of just makes it seem like a poorly produced, half-hearted mediocre collection of songs, when it's way better than that. I love the Nashville-sounding production, and pretty much all the songs are at least really good to great. Suffering Jukebox, San Francisco BC and Party Barge are all-time-great Joos songs in my books.

I do remember not loving it that much when it came out, but I think the record has aged really well, and is way better than most of the stuff Pitchfork hyped in 2008. Sorry, The Mae Shi.

triggercut, Sunday, 21 July 2019 03:14 (ten months ago) link

Not sure this is the case, but if you tell someone who has cleaned up their act that their new music is half-assed...

... (Eazy), Sunday, 21 July 2019 04:38 (ten months ago) link

I think Berman's reaction makes more sense if you remember just how bad Pitchfork and the media ecosystem that had developed around it were by 2008. Their ability to make or break indie acts with a single review was at an all-time high, but the level of actual engagement with the music in those reviews had ebbed. Dan Bejar registers this same phenomenon in his weird "Grief Point" monologue, speaking about an album that came out the same year as Lookout Mountain and received a similarly lazy and disinterested, pro forma good review from PF:

The message from the critical reception of [Trouble in] Dreams was quite clear: We will not be listening to you any further.

Keep poltiics OUT of Dancing!!!! (bernard snowy), Sunday, 21 July 2019 10:52 (ten months ago) link

(Btw I just looked up the Pitchfork review of that Destroyer record and it's truly pathetic, just a bunch of indie rock horse-trading and market analysis. The reviewer wastes multiple paragraphs drawing parallels between Bejar's career arc and Guided By Voices, a band that his band sounds nothing like, a band that at that point had been broken up for 4 or 5 years. The concluding paragraph tells us "I caught only one pun, two snippets of others' famous lyrics, and two references to other bands" but I guess the writer+editor thought readers of this review would be more interested in William Bowers's parodies of GbV song titles than in knowing, e.g., that one of those famous lyrics is Crystal Waters' "Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)". I could go on, I won't.

Keep poltiics OUT of Dancing!!!! (bernard snowy), Sunday, 21 July 2019 11:16 (ten months ago) link

I was talking to one of the screenwriters of Top Gun 2 after its Comic-Con panel last weekend. Turns out the guy is a big Purple Mountains fan, believe it or not. He told me he managed to work in a last-minute line for Aging Maverick to say: "I feel the need... the need to speed into the lead suddenly decline."

Anyway, this album is basically unruinable for me, and that's good, because otherwise the sound of that third line being snuck into "Nights That Won't Happen" as an obvious last-minute overdub might've just shot the whole thing down for me like a MiG over the Indian Ocean.

del griffith, Thursday, 25 July 2019 19:13 (ten months ago) link

How does PM come up in conversation with an action movie screenwriter?

calstars, Thursday, 25 July 2019 19:24 (ten months ago) link

Easy, it's all I talk about anymore. Also, he writes rom-coms too.

del griffith, Thursday, 25 July 2019 19:33 (ten months ago) link

Was listening to the album on headphones in a small shop then took them off to hear 'Darkness And Cold' playing on their speakers. Felt nice, can't say that has ever happened before, strange for it to be a Berman-related experience

PaulTMA, Thursday, 25 July 2019 19:36 (ten months ago) link

Paul, you're gonna wanna register that here, I think.

Obscure Singles Heard at CVS

I know "Darkness and Cold" is the single with the video starring Steve McNair, but I hadn't picked up on the "first and goal" football reference in "All My Happiness is Gone" until someone pointed it out to me this morning.

Fittingly, I'm very proud of myself for being the only one I know so far to have discovered the lil reference to Starlite Walker in "Maybe I'm the Only One for Me."

del griffith, Thursday, 25 July 2019 19:59 (ten months ago) link

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.

please don' talk like this on this board or elsewhere. instead, choose not to be an asshole. thanks.

she carries a torch. two torches, actually (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Thursday, 25 July 2019 20:07 (ten months ago) link

You're right that I shouldn't have used the a-word there, but I do think numerical ratings does a great disservice to the written language. Which is kind of the whole point of a review.

del griffith, Thursday, 25 July 2019 20:09 (ten months ago) link

Excuse me, do! Do a great disservice to it. Heh

del griffith, Thursday, 25 July 2019 20:10 (ten months ago) link

I agree with you on that point massively actually, I think numerical ratings as a default did irreparable damage to music criticism

she carries a torch. two torches, actually (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Thursday, 25 July 2019 20:11 (ten months ago) link

i give this album 5 bag of popcorn

bookmarkflaglink (jim in vancouver), Thursday, 25 July 2019 20:12 (ten months ago) link

and a grape Fanta

del griffith, Thursday, 25 July 2019 20:20 (ten months ago) link

Anyway, this album is basically unruinable for me, and that's good, because otherwise the sound of that third line being snuck into "Nights That Won't Happen" as an obvious last-minute overdub might've just shot the whole thing down for me like a MiG over the Indian Ocean.

― del griffith, Thursday, 25 July 2019 21:13

I hadn't noticed that. Now I'll hear it every time. Thanks for ruining this album for me forever (joke)

Duke, Thursday, 25 July 2019 20:30 (ten months ago) link

DB albums have always had weird, obvious overdubs. Which is why I find it so strange he left the weak go of the first line of the album.

I agree it's great though.

kraudive, Thursday, 25 July 2019 21:34 (ten months ago) link

Fittingly, I'm very proud of myself for being the only one I know so far to have discovered the lil reference to Starlite Walker in "Maybe I'm the Only One for Me."

Hadn't caught that, thanks for pointing it out! I'm a little surprised I haven't seen anyone note how Snow Is Falling in Manhattan is kind of an extension of "We're trapped inside the song."

Anyway I love this album and I'd say the first five tracks are a perfect album side.

Vaguely Threatening CAPTCHAs, Thursday, 25 July 2019 21:41 (ten months ago) link

Finally listened to this in full... I dig it (natch), and can also see why he used a different moniker this time around; somehow it doesn't feel like a Joos record.

the last Berry La Croix in the work fridge (morrisp), Thursday, 25 July 2019 22:03 (ten months ago) link

Holy fuck.

Just heard from Peyton Pinkerton. I wish it was a sick joke. Our friend David Berman has committed suicide. Devastated beyond words.

— Joe Pernice (@JPernicious) August 7, 2019

self-clowning oven (Murgatroid), Wednesday, 7 August 2019 23:01 (nine months ago) link

GODDAMN.

We couldn't be more sorry to tell you this. David Berman passed away earlier today. A great friend and one of the most inspiring individuals we've ever known is gone. Rest easy, David. pic.twitter.com/5n5bctcu4j

— 𝕯𝖗𝖆𝖌 𝕮𝖎𝖙𝖞 (@dragcityrecords) August 7, 2019

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 7 August 2019 23:01 (nine months ago) link


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