Silver Jews - American Water

A retrospective review of one of New York's greatest albums

It always seemed strange to me that a band capable of capturing such vast rural space in its records would hail from New York City. But as middle American as Silver Jews might sound, they wrote and recorded in the thick of the boroughs. You wouldn't guess it from a first listen, but the crown jewel of their catalog, American Water, was recorded at The Rare Book Room in Brooklyn. It's no city LP; it's the sort of thing you throw on the car stereo while you're wheeling hundreds of miles under your tires at a time. Every song paints wide, dry landscapes, poeticizing on journeys well traveled. Maybe those endless highways are indeed where helmsman David Berman first conjured up the seeds for the record. Maybe he simply saw fit for it to flower later in the creative hive of New York. Either way, it's an album too big to be constrained to one location. It's about New York and Los Angeles and every possible path between them, all at once.

The third Silver Jews full-length, American Water entertains visions of petty crime and electric chairs, of endless highways and small town bars, of the perpetual intersections of the mundane and the sublime. It's littered with the sort of aphorisms that are at once blithely conversational and disarmingly profound (Berman's mostly a poet, after all). It begins with one of the best and strangest lines ever sung: "In 1984, I was hospitalized for approaching perfection." Listening to the record, whether for the first time or the fiftieth, feels like gleaning wisdom from some ageless stranger. Both warm and cryptic, it leaves you with truisms that you'll never quite be able to unravel fully. 

Berman slings his vocals over playful guitars so casually he might make you wonder if he's kidding. Fans of the Grateful Dead will feel right at home in Water's laid back atmosphere, but Berman isn't simply embracing a stress-free osmosis into the world as it is. He's using the same roots to focus on something altogether more transcendental. He holds it back, more or less, until the last song, when he finally lets the record float free. "I'm going to shine out in the wild silence," he sings in a last release from the sub-dermal tension of the previous forty minutes. Emerging from the strange normalities of everyday America comes a staggering declaration of the intent to surpass it all, to shine out and rise up and be better. It's so pure a gesture that it justifies the occasionally surreal Americana twang of the rest of the record. There aren't a lot of albums that I'd call perfect, but American Water is without a doubt one of them.

Spaces - 'The Crown of the Sun'

It's not always easy to build momentum with an instrumental centered around acoustic guitar, but Spaces does just that with this forward-tumbling track.

Fast Years - 'Young Heart'

Fast Years beef up the happy, rolicking surf-punk engine with some raw bluesy muscle. The result is one of the catchiest singles of the year so far, replete with handclaps and a swinging hook. Keep an eye out for their debut EP.

Odd Future in New York

Odd Future, officially known as Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All is coming to New York. The band is most notable known for its members, Tyler, The Creator and Frank Ocean. Each member of the group brings an individuality that challenges the norms of society. Tyler, The Creator is no stranger to controversy, the rapper is known for dropping offensive lyrics with no apologies to follow suit. Tyler sometimes feels like an acquired taste. He is someone that you have to get used to for him to become appealing. The issue with Tyler is that most people don't like acquired tastes.

On the other hand, there is Frank Ocean who is a rare treat. The songwriter, and singer seems so out of place in the band's chaos, but it works for him. Following features, and songwriting credits off Kanye West and Jay-Z's ‘Watch the Throne,’ Ocean seems poised to make bigger and better music. Ocean recently released a sneak for his track titled 'Voodoo' and everything about the song caters to a part of sound that you aren't used to hearing in music. The best things that set Ocean apart are his lyrics and delivery. They are captivating, and make the song complete.

Other members in Odd future include Hodgy Beats, Left Brain, Jasper Dolphin, Matt Martians, Hal Williams, Taco, Domo Genesis, Earl Sweatshirt, Syd tha Kyd. Members like Hodgy Beats, Earl Sweatshirt, and Syd tha Kyd have also developed a large individual fan base thanks to their videos on YouTube.

The group will take the stage at Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center on March 20.

Field Mouse - 'You Guys Are Gonna Wake Up My Mom'

This catchy new single from dreampop outfit Field Mouse will be out on 7" vinyl via Small Plates Records tomorrow.

Awning - 'Home'

The debut EP from this NYC folktronica duo glitches, blips and bleeps to high heaven. Here's the closing track.

I'm In You - 'Sure'

Somewhere between Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode emerges Brooklyn outfit I'm In You with their fantastic new single. Bonus points for chambered nautiluses.

The Cost of Living Musically in New York City

New York City is considered to be one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. Like the saying goes “if you can make it in New York, then you can make it anywhere.” The city life that New York has to offer can be ever harder to maintain, if you are a struggling musician. It takes years of very little pay, multiple jobs before many artists get some sort of recognition. With some savings in place and a steady income it is possible to make it, but let me just warn you that this path is not cheap.


Depending on the area of NYC that you decide to call home, a studio can cost you anywhere from $1200 to $3500. 1 bedroom apartments in Midtown NYC can be even more expensive, going as high as $5000 a month. As a musician you may be more inclined to save every penny and rent out the cheapest studio you can find.

Cost of Living

In generally coming from anywhere around the United States and moving to New York the cost of living is significantly higher. Things that you may find cheaper in your state or city can easily be twice the price in New York City. If you want to find out how prices in your area compare to prices in New York go here.


New York City is a busy city where everyone is constantly moving. Finding time to perfect your musical craft can be a struggle especially if you are working a 9-5 job to support yourself. You have to find the right balance for what you are doing now so that you can have time for what you intend to do in the future.

Flying Cars - 'Violet Eyes'

So far the only output from these guys have been these three demos, but their full-throated jangle suggests good things to come. Reminds me of TV on the Radio's early junk. Player autoplays, so it's after the cut.