Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
Drag City, 2008
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2008
Honestly, there really isn't a better record for David Berman to end on. It has some finality to it. Where he's worked out all the demons he needed to work out through music and can now move on. The album's final track, “We Could Be Looking For the Same Thing” is unlike anything Berman has ever done. That is, it's a seemingly straightforward love song. “We could be looking for the same thing/ If you're looking for someone/ We could belong to each other/ If you're not seein' anyone,” he sings. He's described it as a song about settling, but I think it's mostly just sweet, and how most relationships tend to work out. And I love that his wife's vocal harmonies factor heavily into the structure of the song. Unlike Bright Flight, where the suffering sung about is Berman's, here it's largely about the suffering of others. The album is dedicated to Jeremy Blake, a friend of Berman's who committed suicide. Berman, having attempted suicide, has something to reflect on. “My Pillow is the Threshold” is the best example of this, but it's scattered throughout the record. “Candy Jail” is a song that made a lot of sense after I got over the glee I got hearing Berman rhyme licorice with Swedish Fish. Essentially, though the world you live in is a fine place, where you have people that listen to you, understand you, and are there for you, sometimes it can be a fucking prison. The album's cover also plays into this theme, featuring three figures of Babar the Elephant at a cliff. You can't tell whether they're climbing up to safety or down to the crashing waves below. It represents the waffling tonality of the record. On one hand it's pretty depressing, but then you've got fun little ditties like “Party Barge” (whose sound effects of foghorns and seagulls never fail to make me giggle) and “Strange Victory, Strange Defeat,” which is effectively about squirrels. But then there's also the best song on the record, “Suffering Jukebox,” which perhaps best captures this middleground feeling. It's told from the point of view of a jukebox in a bar. It's full of songs about heartbreak and sadness, and it has to play these songs back against it's will. The jukebox seems to be Berman, singing back all his old pain and misery and maybe this is a veiled goodbye note. Or I might be wrong. Regardless, this is a fitting end to one of my favorite bands. I doubt Berman is done with music forever, and I'm sure he'll release something within the next few years, or then again maybe he'll stick to his new mediums of cartooning and screenwriting. But he's so good at this, that I think he might have a hard time keeping away.