Silver Jews’ 1994 debut, Starlight Walker, was David Berman’s shambling best—photographed between Pavement’s Steve Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich in an earth-toned forest, he advised graduates famously. In retrospect, four of five SJ full-lengths share October release dates, so the first record’s harvest revel was presciently apt. Post–drug addiction and Bright Flight, 2001’s anomalous November post, the head Jew’s back into October mode with Tanglewood Numbers. The Pavement alumni guest, too, but Malkmus offers zero vocals; instead, Berman’s wife, Cassie Marrett, plays sidekick. She does a fine job, though SM’s harmonizing is missed on “Sleeping Is the Only Love”—he contributes crooked-rain guitar; add his off-kiltering singsong and the track would soar.
Other cooks include Will Oldham, ex–Jesus Lizard Duane Denison, and various Chicagoans: Bigger production plus rock hooking equals emphasis on the Nashvillian’s bari-tonal textures rather than verbal junk shop. Lovely Americana tableaux still bubble up repeatedly, especially amid the sunset’s warm glare of “I’m Getting Back Into You” ‘s ham-radio squiggles.
For forced social relevance, mash Berman’s bonged “K-Hole” and its young black Santa Claus character, Andre, with the skeletal ketamine tune of the same name by CocoRosie, one half of which sisterly duo has been blogospherically dissed as of late for comments she made at one of those Caucasian-heavy “Kill Whitie” hipster-hop parties. Fun.