Release Date: Oct 18, 2005
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Back after a much-too-long four-year absence -- during which David Berman struggled with substance abuse, depression, and a suicide attempt -- the Silver Jews return with Tanglewood Numbers, an album full of the wry, insightful storytelling for which the band is beloved, as well as some striking differences. The album's polished sound will come as something of a surprise to fans who have been around since the Starlite Walker days, as will Berman's urgent vocals on tracks like "Sometimes a Pony Gets Depressed. " However, these changes work in the album's favor and give an anthemic heft to the most gripping moments, most of which are about confronting troubles and fears head-on: On the album's opening track, "Punks in the Beerlight"'s "burnouts in love" fight to stay that way even when it gets really, really bad; "There Is a Place" closes Tanglewood Numbers by moving from despair to hope with a thrilling, white-knuckle chant of "I saw God's shadow on this world.
Following a lengthy hiatus, David Berman has resurfaced with a new Silver Jews record and the requisite barrage of press interviews (including one for this site) that are distinct in their variety, candor, and wit per word. Berman answers even the most pat questions so archly, that where I used to imagine it taking him two or more years of careful chiseling to bring together 10 or 12 songs in the manner of American Water (1998) and Bright Flight (2001), you almost wonder if he isn’t sitting on a small mountain of brilliant castoffs. But then how to explain Tanglewood Numbers? In one of these recent interviews, a writer asked Berman if he had any advice for his sister, who was soon to be graduating high school.