David Berman – the singer/songwriter behind Purple Mountains – has form. Very good form. He was originally in the legendary Silver Jews formed along with Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich in the late eighties and Purple Mountains – both the band and the album – is the first sign of life since the Silver Jews disbanded in 2009.
His sonorous, velvety vocals, self-deprecating sense of humor and beautiful poetry return with a vengeance in an album that is epic and statuesque: a bold vision captured in a life-affirming sound that is antithetical filled with snippets of the mundane miseries of life. Early single, ‘All My Happiness Is Gone’ captures this perfectly: a bouncy, spirited, vibrant romp about misery:
It’s not the purple hills, it’s not the silver lakes
it’s not the snow cloud shadowed interstates
it’s not the icy, bike chain rain of Portland, Oregon.
Nothing’s wrong and no one’s asking
but the fears so strong it leaves you gasping.
No way to last out here like this for long.
Cause everywhere I go I know
all my happiness is gone.
The long form video (be patient – the actual song kicks in at 2:04) perfectly captures Breman’s wry humour and sky-high anthemic chorus:
This is an absolute classic of a song with its sweeping strings and singalong lines and the deadpan delivery of a weary master.
The rest of the album is packed full of the intimable Berman style: poetry in sweeping motion, style and humour and a twinkle in the eye about the state of the middle aged man. Think of the beauty of The National, the dryness of Johnny Cash and the dark humour of Kinky Friedman or Larry David.
The video for ‘Darkness and Cold’ captures Breman’s resigned approach to the vicissitudes of life as his lover leaves (for the evening? For good?) with ‘someone she met’:
Darkness and cold/ Rolled in through the holes/ of the stories I told
This is a beautiful album from beginning to end – a bleak vignette of some mid-western USA existence leavened by a twisted sense of humour, a sweet acceptance of the bitterness of a worn out life. Purple Mountains – the work of Berman and the album itself – is a delight.
Purple Mountains is out on 12 July 2019 through Drag City and can be pre-ordered here.
Purple Mountains are on tour through the US in August and September:
US TOUR DATES:
10/8/19 Huichica East Pine Plains NY
11/8/19 White Eagle Hall Jersey City NJ
12/8/19 World Cafe Live Philadelphia PA
14/8/19 Black Cat Washington DC
15/8/19 The Grey Eagle Asheville NC
16/8/19 Pilot Light Knoxville TN
17/8/19 Mercy Lounge Nashville TN
19/8/19 Zanzabar Louisville KY
20/8/19 Duck Room at Blueberry Hill St. Louis MO
21/8/19 The Mill Iowa City IA
23/8/19 Cedar Cultural Center Minneapolis MN
24/8/19- 8/25/19 Sleeping Village Chicago IL
27/8/19 Lee’s Palace Toronto Ontario Canada
28/8/19 La Sala Rossa Montreal Quebec Canada
30/8/19 The Sinclair Cambridge MA
31/8/19 Murmrr Theatre Brooklyn NY
1/9/19 Murmrr Theatre Brooklyn NY
6/9/19 Hopscotch Festival Raleigh NC
13/9/19 Neptune Theatre Seattle WA
14/9/19 Huichica Walla Walla Walla Walla WA
15/9/19 Wonder Ballroom Portland OR
18/9/19 The Chapel San Francisco CA
22/9/19 The Lodge Room Los Angeles CA