Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Album Review: Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains

Purple Mountains
Purple Mountains
***and1/2 out of *****

The first release from David Berman since 2009, after the disbandment of his group Silver Jews finds the front man struggling with it all. Purple Mountains took over five years to complete and only a month after its release, Berman took his own life.

Knowing that, the lyrics take on an even more morbid sense of despair but even before knowing that about the creative force behind the album, things were far from rosy. Berman sings about his constant state of depression and the futility of it all while drinking margaritas in the mall. The record was recorded and produced by Jarvis Taveniere and Jeremy Earl members of the band Woods and the excellent sound/production can juxtapose with pain and monotone singing of Berman, as warm horns, rich bass and guitar jangles keep things moving more or less upbeat against the dour fuck it all lyrics.

Berman's mother died in the lead up to the album and he also separated from his wife of 20 years, while the songs like "I Loved Being My Mother’s Son" and "Maybe I'm he Only One For Me" are raw and honest, coming from obvious true places, they depress as well. All of this comes directly from the lead vocal delivery; pain can be transmuted in various ways, but Berman's dead pan direct sing-speak makes the hurt real and hopeless.

This is an artistic twist in itself, but while the album sounds top notch musically it is painful to return to as tracks like "All My Happiness is Gone" and "Darkness and Cold" have no subtext, bleakness is in and of itself the point. The best complete tracks here are the "Margaritas in the Mall" which contemplates life itself/futility, the warm crackling cymbals/organ work on "Snow Is Falling In Manhattan" and the country bar waltz of "She's Making Friends, I'm Turning Stranger" which Taveniere and Earl elevate above self-pity wallow with Berman singing of the scorned lover with poetic charms.

Berman's lyrics and songwriting cannot be questioned as they turn phrases, cut to the core and put fourth exactly what is meant when it is needed, combined with the musicality things are worth hearing. However his vocal approach and the extra weightiness of it all make it hard to camp in these Purple Mountains for an extended time.
Buy the album, peep some video below:

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