Take note: this is how cults get started. Silver Jews, a twangy indie rock band that was the toast of New York hipsters, recently announced their bowing out from the “scene.” So like the clan of kiffiyeh-clad Brooklynites, I too mourn the vacuum where clever, moving things were once croaked.
I’m lukewarm on folk-y indie rock. However, I am a dirty little man who savors deadpan wit, images that evoke secret worlds, sharp non sequitors; The Silver Jews had that. Do you want the sparse, dark songs (hope you like poetic futility!)? Do you want the melancholy songs that are about love/hilly fields in Virginia/Big Questions? Then the Jews are for you.
Silver Jews existed at a lull, their albums were sparsely released and they only toured a few times near the end of their run. Front man Dave Berman said it himself: “All my favorite singers couldn’t sing.” a line from “We Are Real,” from 1998’s American Water. The line could be code for “They didn’t try, why should I? Now let me explain how February makes heaven sing through squeaking chairs.” The veneer of cynicism disintegrates quickly, though, when you listen to the album. The Jews had a sense of wonder that few artists capture and even fewer build a discography around. Taken alongside the song’s title, it invites fretting about authenticity/the kids/the scene. However, immediately after that line, he drops the following gem:
“My ski vest has buttons like convenience store mirrors and they help me to see/ that everything in this room right now is a part of me.”
If existential staircase wisdom has ever blindsided you through the eyes of a cheap souvenir, you’re probably overdue for this band.