David Berman, the man behind the Silver Jews, releases his first album in four years with a sometimes country flavor to the songs, but that is only part of the sound from the Nashville-based poet/musician.
Berman receives help from ex-Pavement guitarist and longtime collaborator Stephen Malkmus and Will Oldham on the 10-song, 35-minute outing where the songs are often lyrically hard to decipher, though a humorous bent exists ("I'm Getting Back Into Getting Back Into You").
A nice contrast vocally - sometimes Berman is a bit limited and flat in his vocal delivery - is the inclusion of Berman's wife, Cassie, on backing vocals, especially the somewhat breezy and catchy "Animals Shapes" and "The Poor, The Fair and The Good," which also has lots of nice fiddle. On the harder edged numbers ("I Saw God's Shadow" and "Punks in the Beerlight"), the sound is clearly more indie rock. Berman often offers a "different" perspective. "Sometimes a Pony Gets Depressed," with lots of taut guitar, seems to view the world through the eyes of animals.
Berman does not make an easy listening album, but it's a challenge that proves enjoyable.