Silver Jews – Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
Silver Jews frontman David Berman tends to make origami out of established pop idioms, folding musical pages in on themselves. On the band’s sixth album, he takes the jukebox-is-a-broken-heart’s-best-friend model (a la Waylon Jennings’ “The Wurlitzer Prize”) and turns it inside out into a gesture of empathy for the machine itself. Berman disguises his pop hooks with smart, twisted lyrics (“Romance is the douche of the bourgeoisie” gets the oddball prize here) and his stiff, self-important-sounding, half-spoken vocal delivery. It’s a perverse pleasure to hear him heavily intone a gleeful flourish like “strange victor-ee-ee.” Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea is less burdened and more expansive than 2005’s Tanglewood Numbers, and a far cry from the lo-fi, ragged-edged sound of the Jews’ pre-Nashville recordings (Berman moved there early in the decade). Story-songs such as “Aloyisius, Bluegrass Drummer” and “San Francisco B.C.” are colorful and droll, and there’s an effervescent, early rock ‘n’ roll feel thrown in with the indie-country noir.