Purple Mountains (album)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Purple Mountains
Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains.png
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 12, 2019
Recorded2018
Studio
  • Jamdek, Chicago, Illinois
  • Thump, Brooklyn, New York
GenreIndie rock
Length44:21
LabelDrag City
Producer
Singles from Purple Mountains
  1. "All My Happiness Is Gone"
    Released: May 10, 2019
  2. "Darkness and Cold"
    Released: June 11, 2019
  3. "Margaritas at the Mall"
    Released: June 28, 2019

Purple Mountains is the only studio album by American indie rock band Purple Mountains. The eponymous album was released on July 12, 2019 by Drag City.[1][2][3][4] It is the last album by David Berman before his death on August 7, 2019.[5]

Purple Mountains was the first new studio album from David Berman since the disbandment of Silver Jews in 2009. Created over the course of five years, the album went through various failed attempts at writing and recording with various different sets of musicians and producers. It was eventually recorded with members of the band Woods in 2018, recording in both Chicago and Brooklyn. Woods members Jarvis Taveniere and Jeremy Earl produced the album. The album's themes were inspired by the death of Berman's mother, his retirement from music, his struggles with depression, and his strained relationship with his wife. Berman also made the album in hopes of paying down a six-figure debt he had built up. It was preceded by the singles "All My Happiness Is Gone", "Darkness and Cold", and "Margaritas at the Mall". On release, the album received positive reception from critics.

Background and recording[edit]

When Silver Jews disbanded in 2009, David Berman retreated to his house in Nashville, Tennessee and "buried" himself in books. He was frustrated with the reception to the final Silver Jews album, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, which was released in 2008. In an interview with The Washington Post in 2019, Berman said, "I saw no one and did nothing."[6] Berman, who long suffered from treatment-resistant depression, said in a podcast interview with Vish Khanna in 2019, "There probably were a hundred nights over the last ten years where I was sure I wouldn't make it to the morning. Yeah, I'm a very depressed person. And I felt even worse about myself as time went on and I wasn't doing anything. So I do feel better now having completed this project."[7] When his mother died in 2014,[8] Berman was inspired exactly a week later to pick up his guitar and play while he was in her house in Wooster, Ohio. He eventually came back to the chord progression he had played and it became "I Loved Being My Mother's Son", the first song finished for the album. He also separated from his wife of twenty years, Cassie Berman.[9][10] Berman said they did not divorce and were still friends, commenting, "She's all I have as far as family anymore." The polarity between both their personalities and interests is the subject of the album's sixth track, "She's Making Friends, I'm Turning Stranger".[7] Berman also attributed his return to music as a necessity for an income in order to pay down the over $100,000 of debt he amassed in credit card debt and loans, which he said was always over his head and "draining to worry about."[11]

The album was originally to be produced in Vancouver by Dan Bejar, but sessions were later scrapped.

Shortly after the disbandment of Silver Jews, Berman befriended The Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach, who recently moved to Nashville. The two would sometimes collaborate, with Auerbach writing music and Berman writing lyrics, but Berman backed out as Auerbach focused on other projects. However, Auerbach has a songwriting credit on the tenth and final track on Purple Mountains, "Maybe I'm the Only One for Me". Auerbach's side project, The Arcs, performed an early version of the song on their 2016 tour.[12][13] Berman also attempted to work with his longtime friend, Pavement frontman, and fellow founding member of Silver Jews, Stephen Malkmus. He also recorded an entire album with Black Mountain in Vancouver but it was scrapped. Berman also worked with Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, who did spec production work on a few songs, but Berman decided to go in a different direction for the full album.[6]

Berman went on an "extended eight-month West Coast walkabout".[14] He spent time writing in Joshua Tree, California. His wife Cassie came out for his 50th birthday in January 2017 and they rented a place in Malibu, California. He then drove to Portland, Oregon and rented another place for three months in order to write. Part of his West Coast trip was spent working to make the album with Canadian musician and Destroyer frontman Dan Bejar. Berman did not know Bejar personally but was a fan of his music and had read Bejar say positive things of Silver Jews. He originally reached out to Bejar through e-mail in the fall of 2016,[15] and Bejar said he had never produced before but was willing to give it a try. Berman later traveled to and rented a place in Point Roberts, Washington, a US enclave located south of Bejar's native Vancouver where he attempted to write but found he could not finish the lyrics. Bejar recommended recording the music first and finishing the lyrics later. They worked for weeks and recorded full songs but Berman felt the music was "rigid" and he found that writing lyrics for the music, which he had never done before, was impossible. He eventually returned to his home in Nashville. On February 14, 2018, Valentine's Day, Berman separated from his wife and drove from Nashville to Miller Beach, a neighborhood of Gary, Indiana. He lived in Gary for part of 2018 in a house owned by Drag City. He also spent part of 2018 in Vancouver recording demos with Stephen Malkmus and Bejar.[7][8][6][16][17][18][9] In a January 2020 interview with Pitchfork, Bejar reflected that he had trouble getting Berman to sing in the studio and that, compared to the songs on Purple Mountains, the songs they recorded were "incredibly loud and brittle and dry and compressed" with vocals similar to that of Serge Gainsbourg. Bejar also revealed that there are "halfway to final mixes of an album's worth of music" but that decision to release them is up to Drag City. Bejar also said that he is unsure if Berman "would have wanted the world to hear it."[15]

Jeremy Earl (left) and Jarvis Taveniere (right) of the band Woods produced the album in Chicago.

Berman later moved to Chicago, Illinois, living alone in a spare room above the Drag City office. He eventually reached out to Jeremy Earl of the band Woods very early in the morning by email. He asked Earl and fellow Woods member Jarvis Taveniere, both of whom he had never spoken to before, to produce the album. The two, who had listened to Silver Jews together for years, agreed almost immediately. The album was recorded primarily at Jamdek Studios in Chicago, with some parts recorded at Thump Studios in Brooklyn, New York. Most of it was recorded live with Berman occupying a booth while Earl and Taveniere were together in another room. Berman had pages of alternate lyrics for each song with him. They did multiple sessions of overdubs and Berman wanted to retry vocals. However, for many of the songs they ended up using the original first take vocals because they were hard to match. The last song made for the album was "Darkness and Cold". The album also features vocals from Anna St. Louis, a songwriter from Kansas City, Missouri who recorded her vocals in an hour during a mixing session in Los Angeles. The album was mixed by Taveniere in November 2018 at Electrical Audio in Chicago.[19][7][8][6][16][20]

Release and promotion[edit]

On December 12, 2018, former Pavement and Silver Jews member Bob Nastanovich revealed on his podcast Three Songs that David Berman would release new music in 2019 under the name Purple Mountains, which was also the name of Berman's blog.[21] The name "Purple Mountains" is a mondegreen of the lyric "Purple mountain majesties" from "America the Beautiful".[8] Although, his blog was also titled Menthol Mountains at times.[22]

On May 10, 2019, the single "All My Happiness Is Gone" was released on vinyl by Drag City. The single included two remixes of the song, "All My Happiness Is Wrong" by Noah Count and "All My Happiness Is Long" by Mark Nevers featuring clipped recordings of Dave Cloud, and also indicated that a full-length album was a "couple months away." It credited Berman as well as Jeremy Earl, Jarvis Taveniere, and Aaron Neveu of Woods and songwriter Anna St. Louis.[23][24] The single was released digitally on May 17, 2019 with the announcement of a full-length album.[25] A remix of "All My Happiness Is Gone" by Australian electronic music group The Avalanches, who Berman has collaborated with in the past, was commissioned by him, but a licensing issue prevented their version from being released.[26]

"Darkness and Cold" was released as the album's second single on June 11, 2019.[27]

"Margaritas at the Mall" was released as the album's third and final single on June 28, 2019.[28]

Tour[edit]

Purple Mountains was set to tour in support of the album, beginning on August 10, 2019 in Kingston, New York and concluding on September 23, 2019 in Los Angeles; however, Berman died three days before the first show was set to occur, leaving the state of the tour uncertain. All dates were located in the United States except for two in Canada. The tour was to feature opening acts Empty Country, Jeffrey Lewis, unmastered Masters, Diane Cluck with Isabel Castellvi, Country Westerns, State Champion, Bill MacKay, Axis: Sova, Xiao Yao, Lightning Dust, and Herman Dune. The tour included a date at Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina.[29][30] In a Reddit AMA, Berman said he planned to tour Europe in either February or March.[31] Berman had called the tour a "necessity" in order to pay down credit card debt and loans he built up.[7][9]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?8.3/10[32]
Metacritic87/100[33]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[34]
Consequence of SoundA−[35]
The Guardian5/5 stars[36]
The Irish Times4/5 stars[37]
Mojo4/5 stars[38]
Pitchfork8.5/10[39]
Q4/5 stars[40]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[41]
The Times4/5 stars[42]
Uncut9/10[43]

Purple Mountains received positive reviews from critics upon its release. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 87, based on 20 reviews.[33]

Ben Beaumont-Thomas of The Guardian praised the album, giving it a perfect score.[36] Writing for Uncut, Erin Osmon gave the album a 9 out of 10, writing, "The 10 songs assembled here owe as much to Townes Van Zandt's picaresque story songs as they do Dylan's sardonic poetics; they all gnaw at the heart and consciousness. Berman sings of life's travails in fluid and acrobatic phrasing, with each spin revealing a nuance in tone or pronunciation that turns the lyric in a profound or unexpected way, a slow reveal that begs repeat listens. It's unequivocally dark, relatable and addictive."[43] Alex Wisgard of The Line of Best Fit called the album "one of the year's most rewarding" and "most honest".[44] Brian Howe of Spin said, "The arrangements, some of the most gracious Berman's ever had, hum and glow with foggy organs and soft golden horns. Their serenity is at odds with his desperation: This is a portrait of a shattered man."[45]

Chris DeVille of Stereogum called the album a "devastating self-portrait, delivered one bracingly literal observation at a time".[46] Writing for The Wall Street Journal, Mark Richardson said that Berman's "lyrics remain idiosyncratic marvels of wrenching, wry hilarity" and "Purple Mountains [...] picks up where his earlier group left off. The production is a bit more ornate and the songs reflect another decade of hard living, but this is a Silver Jews record in all but name, and a very good one."[47] Writing for Slate, Carl Wilson said, "The relative plainspokenness of Purple Mountains is a sign of a maturing craft, of not wanting to play evasive games."[48] Lauren Murphy of The Irish Times said, "At all times, Berman's ruminative voice is a commanding force over scuffled indie, toe-tappy country pop and occasional Mariachi-style infusions of brass. It's good to have him back."[37]

In a less favorable review, Ludovic Hunter-Tilney of the Financial Times said, "Although his monotonous vocal style and a lack of musical variation prevent the album from really taking off, its movement towards consolation with the irresistible "Storyline Fever" feels like a deserved victory."[49]

Year-end lists[edit]

Publication List Rank Ref.
Bandcamp Daily The Best Albums of 2019
6
BrooklynVegan Top 50 Albums of 2019
4
Consequence of Sound Top 50 Albums of 2019
23
The Line of Best Fit The Best Albums of 2019
31
Loud and Quiet Best 40 albums of 2019
4
Mojo The 75 Best Albums of 2019
9
Now The 10 best albums of 2019
3
Paste The 50 Best Albums of 2019
16
Pitchfork The 50 Best Albums of 2019
10
PopMatters The 70 Best Albums of 2019
10
Q The 50 Albums of the Year
39
The Ringer The Best Albums of 2019
3
Rolling Stone The 50 Best Albums of 2019
37
Slant Magazine The 25 Best Albums of 2019
7
Spectrum Culture Top 20 Albums of 2019
1
Spin The 10 Best Albums of 2019
2
Sputnikmusic Top 50 Albums of 2019
7
Stereogum The 50 Best Albums of 2019
3
Uncut The Top 75 Albums of the Year
3
Uproxx The Best Albums of 2019
15
Vice The 100 Best Albums of 2019
7

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by David Berman, except where noted.

No.TitleLength
1."That's Just the Way That I Feel"3:23
2."All My Happiness Is Gone"4:20
3."Darkness and Cold"3:58
4."Snow Is Falling in Manhattan"6:03
5."Margaritas at the Mall"3:54
6."She's Making Friends, I'm Turning Stranger"4:11
7."I Loved Being My Mother's Son"4:20
8."Nights That Won't Happen"6:08
9."Storyline Fever"4:46
10."Maybe I'm the Only One for Me" (Berman, Dan Auerbach, Gate Pratt)3:18
Total length:44:21

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from liner notes.[20]

Musicians

Technical

  • Jarvis Taveniere – production, engineering, mixing
  • Jeremy Earl – production
  • Dan Koretzky – executive production
  • Cooper Crain – auxiliary recording
  • Peyton Pinkerton – auxiliary recording
  • Carl Saff – lacquer cut

Artwork

Charts[edit]

Chart (2019) Peak
position
UK Independent Albums (OCC)[71] 7
UK Independent Album Breakers (OCC)[72] 1

References[edit]

  1. ^ Barsanti, Sam (May 19, 2019). "Silver Jews offshoot band Purple Mountains announces new album". The A.V. Club. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  2. ^ Cook-Wilson, Winston (May 17, 2019). "Silver Jews' David Berman Announces Purple Mountains Album, Releases "All My Happiness Is Gone" Video". Spin. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  3. ^ Fernando, Christine (May 17, 2019). "Silver Jews Frontman David Berman Announces First New Album in 11 Years, Shares New Video". Paste. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  4. ^ Thiessen, Brock (May 17, 2019). "Silver Jews' David Berman Returns with New Album as Purple Mountains". Exclaim!. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  5. ^ "David Berman (Silver Jews, Purple Mountains) Dead at 52". Pitchfork.
  6. ^ a b c d Malitz, David (June 3, 2019). "David Berman was the cult musician who went away for 10 years. What made him finally come back?". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e Vish Khanna (June 12, 2019). "Ep. #481: David Berman". Kreative Kontrol (Podcast). Retrieved July 13, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d Rutledge, Chris (July 10, 2019). "Purple Mountains: Any Way You Hear It". American Songwriter. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c Lingan, John (July 10, 2019). "David Berman Is Alive and Living in Chicago". The Ringer. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  10. ^ Hyden, Steven (June 26, 2019). "How Indie Cult Hero David Berman Disappeared For A Decade — And Then Returned, Better Than Ever". Uproxx. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  11. ^ Jenkins, Dafydd (August 6, 2019). "Purple Mountains – the eventual return of Silver Jews' David Berman". Loud and Quiet. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  12. ^ "Levitation Live Shot: The Arcs". www.austinchronicle.com.
  13. ^ "The Arcs pack a wallop in concert at the Pageant | Concert reviews | stltoday.com". www.stltoday.com.
  14. ^ Vish Khanna (November 29, 2017). "Ep. #368: Destroyer". Kreative Kontrol (Podcast). Event occurs at 01:30:39. Retrieved July 29, 2019.
  15. ^ a b Dombal, Ryan (January 14, 2020). "Destroyer's Dan Bejar Serenades the Apocalypse". Pitchfork. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  16. ^ a b Bob Nastanovich and Mike Hogan (December 12, 2018). "Episode 79" (Podcast). 3 Songs Podcast. Retrieved July 13, 2019.
  17. ^ Nichols, Travis (July 12, 2019). "Actual Air in the Purple Mountains: An Interview With David Berman". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  18. ^ Yakas, Ben (May 22, 2018). "Interview: Stephen Malkmus Has Gone From Ungrounded To Unguarded". Gothamist. Retrieved July 29, 2019.
  19. ^ Taveniere, Jarvis (June 12, 2019). "Jarvis Taveniere". Instagram. Retrieved July 29, 2019. Mixed it in Chicago with David in Nov.
  20. ^ a b Purple Mountains (Media notes). Purple Mountains. Chicago: Drag City. 2019. DC680.CS1 maint: others (link)
  21. ^ "Silver Jews' David Berman To Launch New Band In 2019, Says Bob Nastanovich". Stereogum.com. December 12, 2018.
  22. ^ "David Berman of Silver Jews Returns with New Project Purple Mountains « American Songwriter". May 10, 2019.
  23. ^ Sodomsky, Sam; Monroe, Jazz (May 10, 2019). "Silver Jews' David Berman Returns With First New Music in 11 Years". Pitchfork. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  24. ^ "Purple Mountains - All My Happiness Is Gone". Discogs.
  25. ^ Schatz, Lake (May 17, 2019). "David Berman announces new album as Purple Mountains, shares "All My Happiness is Gone": Stream". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  26. ^ "The Avalanches' Remix Of New Purple Mountains Single Held Up By Licensing Issue". Stereogum.com. July 10, 2019.
  27. ^ Gottsegen, Will (June 11, 2019). "Hear "Darkness and Cold," a New Song From David Berman's Purple Mountains". Spin. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  28. ^ Gottsegen, Will (June 28, 2019). "New Music: Purple Mountains – "Margaritas at the Mall"". Spin. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  29. ^ "Purple Mountains Majesties". Drag City. May 17, 2019. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  30. ^ "Tours: Purple Mountains". Ground Control Touring. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  31. ^ "Purple Mountains' David Berman Talks Staying Sober, Stephen Malkmus, And His "Best" Song In Reddit AMA". July 15, 2019.
  32. ^ "Purple Mountains by Purple Mountains reviews". AnyDecentMusic?. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  33. ^ a b "Purple Mountains by Purple Mountains Reviews and Tracks". Metacritic. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  34. ^ Phares, Heather. "Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains". AllMusic. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  35. ^ Hughes, Kayleigh (July 9, 2019). "Album Review: David Berman Returns as Purple Mountains with a Melancholy Masterpiece". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  36. ^ a b Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (July 12, 2019). "Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains review – sardonic Americana with the lyrics of the year". The Guardian. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  37. ^ a b Murphy, Lauren (July 11, 2019). "Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains review – The remarkable return of David Berman". The Irish Times. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  38. ^ Male, Andrew (August 2019). "Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains". Mojo. No. 309. p. 86.
  39. ^ Sodomsky, Sam (July 12, 2019). "Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains". Pitchfork. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  40. ^ Segal, Victoria (August 2019). "Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains". Q. No. 401. p. 115.
  41. ^ Dolan, Jon (July 15, 2019). "Purple Mountains' Debut is a Richly Depressive Comeback Album from a Brilliant Songwriter". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  42. ^ Hodgkinson, Will (July 12, 2019). "Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains review — a poignant cry of loneliness". The Times. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  43. ^ a b Osmon, Erin (August 2019). "Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains". Uncut. No. 267. p. 30.
  44. ^ Wisgard, Alex (July 11, 2019). "Purple Mountains is a devastatingly honest masterpiece from David Berman". The Line of Best Fit. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  45. ^ Howe, Brian (July 16, 2019). "Review: David Berman's 'Purple Mountains' Is a Welcome Return From an Old Master". Spin. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  46. ^ DeVille, Chris (July 9, 2019). "Album Of The Week: Purple Mountains Purple Mountains". Stereogum. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  47. ^ Richardson, Mark (July 10, 2019). "'Purple Mountains' Review: A Poet of Comic Desperation". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  48. ^ Wilson, Carl (July 11, 2019). "The Greatest Songwriter You've Never Heard of Is Back". Slate. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  49. ^ Hunter-Tilney, Ludovic (July 12, 2019). "Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains — David Berman is back". Financial Times. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  50. ^ Skolnik, Jes (December 13, 2019). "The Best Albums of 2019: #20 – 1". Bandcamp Daily. Bandcamp. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  51. ^ "BrooklynVegan's Top 50 Albums of 2019". BrooklynVegan. December 23, 2019. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  52. ^ "Top 50 Albums of 2019". Consequence of Sound. December 2, 2019. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  53. ^ Cartledge, Luke (December 20, 2019). "The Best Albums of 2019 Ranked". The Line of Best Fit. Retrieved December 21, 2019.
  54. ^ "The Loud And Quiet best 40 albums of 2019". Loud and Quiet. December 10, 2019. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  55. ^ "Review Of The Year 2019: The 75 Best Albums Of 2019". Mojo. No. 314 (January 2020 ed.). p. 17.
  56. ^ Locke, Jesse (December 20, 2019). "The 10 best albums of 2019". Now. Retrieved December 21, 2019.
  57. ^ "The 50 Best Albums of 2019". Paste. December 2, 2019. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  58. ^ "The 50 Best Albums of 2019". Pitchfork. December 10, 2019. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  59. ^ "The 70 Best Albums of 2019". PopMatters. December 9, 2019. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  60. ^ "The 50 Albums of the Year". Q. No. 407 (February 2020 ed.). p. 43.
  61. ^ Harvilla, Rob; Serrano, Shea (December 3, 2019). "The Best Albums of 2019". The Ringer. Retrieved December 21, 2019.
  62. ^ "The 50 Best Albums of 2019". Rolling Stone. December 5, 2019. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  63. ^ "The 25 Best Albums of 2019". Slant Magazine. December 12, 2019. Retrieved December 21, 2019.
  64. ^ "Top 20 Albums of 2019". Spectrum Culture. December 19, 2019. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  65. ^ "The 10 Best Albums of 2019". December 17, 2019. Retrieved December 21, 2019.
  66. ^ "Staff's Top 50 Albums of 2019: 10 – 1". Sputnikmusic. December 20, 2019. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  67. ^ "The 50 Best Albums Of 2019". Stereogum. December 3, 2019. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  68. ^ "The Review Of 2019: The Top 75 Albums Of The Year". Uncut. No. 272 (January 2020 ed.). p. 74.
  69. ^ "The Best Albums Of 2019". Uproxx. December 2, 2019. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  70. ^ Terry, Josh (December 12, 2019). "The 100 Best Albums of 2019". Vice. Retrieved December 21, 2019.
  71. ^ "Official Independent Albums Chart Top 50". Retrieved August 14, 2019.
  72. ^ "Official Independent Album Breakers Chart Top 20". Retrieved August 14, 2019.