#tbt Silver Jews / American Water (1998)

By Alexander DePompei
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American Water marked the first time that Silver Jews stopped being a Pavement side project (both bands, by the way, formed around the same time) and demonstrated their ability to be a band that puts out music that is just as good if not better than Malkmus’ main focus. Still, for all intents and purposes this album is far from being a Pavement album even with their fingerprints all over it. Many critics at the time attributed this album’s greatness to Malkmus, despite them knowing very well that it was Berman who wrote every single song on the record. This album reunited David Berman and Stephen Malkmus after a one album break, and the end result are some of Berman’s most evocative lyrics and Malkmus’ best guitar work in his whole catalog. The two share lead vocal duties on “Blue Arrangements”, “Send In The Clouds”, and “Federal Dust”, finding the perfect mix between Berman’s baritone vocals and Malkmus’ high tenor. In typical Silver Jews fashion, they include an instrumental track “Night Society”. Berman said in a 2002 interview that it serves “as respite from the words and/or my voice (which doesn’t agree with everyone to say the least)”, yet the track is much more than a simple break in the album. From ballads about execution to honky tonk tracks about feeling lonely, this album hits territory that wasn’t explored in this era’s indie music but fits in perfectly at the same time. Silver Jews are no more, and David Berman returned to writing poetry after the dissolution. David Berman begins the opening track “Random Rules” with “In 1984 I was hospitalized for approaching perfection”, and while he might still not have achieved it on American Water, he gets pretty damn close. Check out “Send In The Clouds” below.

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