My 50 Favorite Albums of 2008: #44

Number 44

Cementing himself as one of my absolute favorite songwriters since first hearing his Silver Jews shortly after the 2001 release of their Bright Flight, David C. Berman and ever-shifting company have created some of the best, most pure music of the last 15 years (The Natural Bridge is in my 10 favorite records ever, period). Given the amount of time he makes his loyal fans wait between records – this time nearly 3 full years – it’s fair to say that it’s a time for celebration whenever the Silver Jews (or Joos, as the faithful so frequently call them) are set to unveil a new LP. Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea is the title of the newest addition to their Drag City releases, and it continues to expand on new, more pristine avenues of production that they started to tinker with on 2005’s Tanglewood Numbers. I’ve never thought about the pro’s and con’s of a David Berman-created release so much like I have with Lookout Mountain, because there just wasn’t so much to fuss about on previous releases. Sure, Tanglewood Numbers had its less-than-outstanding moments, but that’s only because at first I was trying to make it live up to the brilliance of prior masterpieces in their canon. That album has stood the test of time and run-thru’s, coming out as a more than enjoyable stand-alone record. But there is something strangely off about bits and pieces of Lookout, and that’s almost solely due to the odd production choices on more than a couple of the tracks. Berman’s lyrics, along with his own singular way of telling them, calls for nothing too courageous when it comes to the thought into production, and it seems like a boundary was crossed a few times in the sharpening of this record’s edges. I don’t want to knock this album anymore, though, because it is ultimately one that I found myself listening to a lot in 2008, because in the end, it still remains a set of songs that are seeping with memorable line after memorable line. Plus, how could I not add the album that features Berman at his career-happiest, playing with a big lineup that seems to be a set band, including his wife Cassie, all with he found himself embarking on his first-ever worldwide tour with. Long live the Joos.

1.What Is Not But Could Be If
2.Aloyisius, Bluegrass Drummer
3.Suffering Jukebox
4.My Pillow Is the Threshold
5.Strange Victory, Strange Defeat
6.Open Field
7.San Francisco, B.C.
8.Candy Jail
9.Party Barge
10.We Could Be Looking For the Same Thing


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4 Responses to “My 50 Favorite Albums of 2008: #44”

  1. elissa Says:

    Only 44, man! That’s weak.

  2. Ferguson Says:

    I had a feeling I might get some backlash from you on this one.

    And here’s another comment that might cause some more of it – I think this is their weakest record.

    Uh oh! Kill me now?

  3. elissa Says:

    DUDE, Tanglewood is going to be their weakest record always, or at least I hope they never make another record that weak. They sounded so together on this record. Like the band had finally come together for a proper practice and David sounded a lot better emotionally than he did before. But I’ll always miss the Natural Bridge days.


    My mind is blown.

    • Ferguson Says:

      There was a point when I did think “Tanglewood” was their least impressive record, but it slowly grew on me and I consider it a very good, if still uneven album. I think it is better than this one, for sure. I agree that you can definitely tell Berman’s in a happier place now that their seems to be a full and set lineup for the group and they are meshing very well together, but there were too many times on this album that the final sound of it seemed a little out of their hands and not how it might have been originally intended. I’m not trying to say it’s a bad record, obviously. Just my least favorite Joos one.

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