posted 2011-09-21 14:00:02

Bright Flight by Silver Jews - Album That Changed My Life

Dan Lardner

Contributing Writer



As a musician, it is very difficult to come to terms with what a great album is. Which album propelled me into a constant obsession with music? The most obvious answer would be one of The Beatles albums, but that was when I was still in high school and discovering music. I wanted to pick something more current and culturally relevant. Which album was it that made me want to learn to play the guitar? I would have to say the great Marquee Moon by Television, but I never excelled as a guitar player. I never indulged in the cheesy-technical guitar riffs that Jimmy Page played on Zeppelin records. The question I had to ask myself was which album made me listen to music differently. I was looking for an album which provided a critical listening experience. Which album made me question the sincerity of everything that I had listened to in the past and what I was listening to in the present? That album was Bright Flight by the Silver Jews.

Bright Flight was released in 2001, when I was 11 years old. I bought it in 2008, when I was a senior in high school. The album proves to be timeless. This album cannot be classified into one genre. It combines country, folk music, rock music, and a variety of other genres, ultimately creating an amalgamation of different sounds. The album’s lyrical and musical charm is endearing to the say the least.

For the past three and a half years I’ve enjoyed listening and dissecting all of the songs on Bright Flight. I can easily say that this album is one of the wittiest, most depressing, beautiful and brilliant albums I have ever heard.

The Silver Jews were a dynamic band that served as the foundation for many independent rock bands to come. Although, never struck with large-scale fame, they were critically acclaimed mostly due to the singer, David Berman’s, lyrical genius. The band’s core initially consisted of David Berman and Stephen Malkmus, but it is without question Berman’s band. Malkmus (of the indie-rock super group Pavement) would go in and out of the line-up through out the bands’ six-album existence. He was present during the recording of Bright Flight. Another influential and essential Silver Jews’ member was also present: Cassie Berman, David Berman’s wife. She appears on the infamous anthem “Tennessee” a song comprised of a call and response chorus that chimes the lyrics “You’re the only ten I see.” The song draws an American landscape of love and relationships in relation different geographical settings. The main songwriter in the band is David Berman, a celebrated poet who has continued to write even after the band’s demise in 2008. He has always been active on the literary scene. He has two books of poetry published: Actual Air (1999) and The Portable February (1999). Bright Flight is not the band’s most well known or critically acclaimed release, but it is extremely essential to my growth as a musician.

Sitting here listening to Bright Flight, for what honestly could be the 500th time, it still sounds fresh and exciting. I wait for my favorite lines with anticipation, I never skip a song, and when it ends with the heartbreaking tune “Death of an Heir of Sorrows” I feel a sense of joy, wonderment, and completion. I am naturally an indecisive person but these are some very conflicting emotions.

My life problems are drastically different from David Berman’s. I have never had to deal with the strife that he has had to deal with. I have not had a serious drug problem, I have not tried to kill myself, and I have a good relationship with my father (David Berman’s father is the well known and equally detested Republican lobbyist Richard Berman). Though it is the sincerity of Bright Flight that I relate so strongly to, and it is the wit of Bright Flight that never ceases to entertain me. Never having heard these two aspects so perfectly intertwined, Bright Flight has hit me hard, and played a role in turning me into a better songwriter.