The music world was saddened on August 7th of 2019 when it was learned that Silver Jews and Purple Mountains founder David Berman had passed away aged 52. Berman had enjoyed success with the Silver Jews but over the years had not played much music. When his mother died in 2014, he was inspired to get back to playing music and after a few false starts he hooked up with Jeremy Earl and Jarvis Taveniere of the band Woods to help play and produce the album that would come out in mid-July, also titled Purple Mountains.
While there is overarching sadness throughout the album, it is mixed with clever/funny lyrics. Upbeat opener, “That’s Just the Way That I Feel” features the line “when I try to drown my thoughts in gin, I find my worst idea know how to swim.” “Darkness and Cold” is both touching, sad and funny as Berman speculates on what it would be like when his ex-partner starts dating someone else. Later Berman ruminates on a similar theme when he sings that “I see lots of normal men yearning to obtain her, I’m a loser, she’s a gainer” on the excellent “She’s Making Friends, I’m Turning Stranger”.
While I’m not going to be one to complain about how hard men have it, there is a serious problem of men losing friends over the years and becoming more isolated. With a great guitar line and excellent drumming, on “All My Happiness Is Gone”, Berman sings that “lately I tend to make strangers wherever I go, some of them were once people I was happy to know. “Nights That Won’t Happen” is a look at all the lost dreams due to a separation or death. While the sadness is palpable throughout, Purple Mountains is a special record that most people should be able to relate to in one way or another.