Silver Jews - Bright Flight - Review
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critics' view

As comforting as an old sweater, the Silver Jews return with Bright Flight, another collection of David Berman's witty, poignant, somehow reassuring songs. Though the easygoing sound of this album is in keeping with the rest of Berman's work, the Silver Jews' mercurial lineup affects the feel of each album. This time, Berman's sweetheart, Cassie Marrett, handles the backing vocal duties instead of sometime-Silver Jew Stephen Malkmus, who was presumably too busy with the Jicks to lend his services this time around. Consequently, Bright Flight bears more than a passing resemblance to The Natural Bridge, the other Silver Jews album recorded without Malkmus; though the group is definitely Berman's project, both The Natural Bridge and Bright Flight feel more like solo albums than collaborative efforts.

Basking in the warm production and pedal steel guitars of Nashville — where Berman relocated to record the album — Bright Flight doesn't try to match the off-the-cuff sparkle of albums like American Water. Instead, the album's polished sound draws more attention to Berman's drawling voice and witty-yet-earnest lyrics, which ranges from silly puns like "Horseleg Swastikas"' "Water doesn't give a damn" to evocative images like "Time Will Break the World"'s "My horse's legs look like four brown shotguns." Many more examples abound on nearly every song (except the instrumental, "Transylvania Blues," natch) but it's not necessary to follow Berman's wordplay to enjoy the music. Songs like "Slow Education," "Room Games and the Diamond Rain," and "Tennessee" spotlight the Silver Jews at their singalong best; the brooding "Time Will Break the World" finds Berman at his most political; and "Let's Not and Say We Did" and "Friday Night Fever" add that slightly goofy sense of humor that makes every Silver Jews album that much more fun. Though it's not as essential as Starlite Walker or American Water, having another Silver Jews album is like having another birthday — it's better than not having one.

Heather Phares
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