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Silver Jews

Our critics' picks in new releases

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Like Joe Pernice, Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous and Kurt Wagner of Lambchop, Silver Jews' David Berman melds elements of blues, country and pop with wry, downbeat lyricism to construct poignant, poetic songs. The one-time Malkmus crony retains his lo-fi roots in the often spare, straightforward arrangements, but in execution, their rich, pristine beauty is anything but. World- wizened and ironic, Berman's laid-back country blues surveys the reason-to-believe resilience of longtime losers who can "tell you things about this wallpaper that you'd never ever want to know" ("Horseleg Swatstikas").

As on the offbeat ballad, "I Remember Me," whose sunny, Southern pop echoes Big Star and The Byrds (with their dark Nashville roots showing), Berman captures hope's insistent allure with a protagonist who perseveres after a protracted coma separates him from his storybook love--just as he was set to propose. While sometimes his characters triumph--such as in "Tennessee," a stark mountain blues track that blooms like a flower to reveal an irreverently joyous refrain--more often they're the cry-in-your-beer despondents of George Strait's "Friday Night Fever," as in "Death of an Heir of Sorrows," where Berman sings: "I wish I had a thousand bucks; I wish I was the Royal Trux; but mostly I wish I was with you."

A terrifically engaging album, Bright Flight roams with a nary a misstep from the bouncy, sing-a-long ragtime pop of "Let's Not And Say We Did" to the swell and ebb, slow-burn rock of "Time Will Break The World" to "Transylvania Blues," an instrumental whose thick twang gives its Western blues an almost surf feel. The combination of intelligence, melody and understated grace makes this an album that resolutely resists all attempts to dislodge it from the spindle, let alone one's mind.

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