David Berman’s Purple Mountains project is his last 


David Berman, the droll and world-weary founder of indie band Silver Jews, launched his new project in late July with the release of the Purple Mountains LP (Drag City). The new band’s tour was slated to begin Aug. 10, but on Aug. 7, Berman died of an apparent suicide. He was 52.

Silver Jews got a jump-start in the late 1990s from affiliated band Pavement, since Berman and Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus were childhood friends. The new Purple Mountains displayed a Berman with a lower-register, richer baritone, hovering somewhere between Bill Callahan and Johnny Cash.

Hyper-analysis of the song lyrics could make the case that Berman’s depression was more direct than in the past, worn on his sleeve in tracks like “Darkness and Cold” and “All My Happiness Is Gone.” Yet the same could be said for songwriters such as Phil Elverum, who managed to somehow carry on. There are 10 great soul-disclosing songs here, and the media attention since Berman’s death has been overwhelming for a relatively obscure artist. But it is tragic to think we will never hear these songs live.


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