WHO IS HE? Indie-rock singer-songwriter David Berman, the former Silver Jews leader who retreated from music in 2009, saying he wanted to a) “stop before (he) got bad,” and b) find a way to mitigate the damage done to society by his “evil” corporate-lobbyist father.
WHAT IS THIS? The Chicago resident’s long-gestating, painstakingly assembled and hotly anticipated return to music with a new band, new songs and a new dedication to his art and craft.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Classic Berman — but better. Despite the years away, a recent divorce and a series of false starts and aborted attempts at recording over the years, the 52-year-old singer-songwriter — who specializes in darkly wry, impressively literate and devastatingly razor-sharp confessions of loss, isolation and misery voiced in his deadpan baritone and set against a basic backdrop of folk and country — has seldom sounded more focused.
WHAT WOULD BE A BETTER TITLE FOR THIS ALBUM? It’s All Downhill From Here.
HOW SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? With nothing to distract you from his immaculate songwriting.
WHAT 10 WORDS DESCRIBE IT? Bleak, beautiful, breathtaking, brave, insightful, introspective, intrepid, straightforward, striking, smart.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? You have to love songs with titles like Margaritas At The Mall, Maybe I’m the Only One For Me and She’s Making Friends, I’m Turning Stranger — but more serious fare like I Loved Being My Mother’s Son and All My Happiness Is Gone deliver the heftiest emotional blows.
WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY SAY? ‘He’s making up for lost time.’
HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO THIS? Enough to make up for some lost time yourself.
IF THIS ALBUM WERE A BOOK, WHAT KIND OF BOOK WOULD IT BE? A collection of short stories by Raymond Carver.
SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL? After a decade away, he could probably use the money. And he’s earned it.