April 2012

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.