ALBUM: “The Natural Bridge” by Silver Jews
RELEASE YEAR: Oct. 1, 1996
LABEL: Drag City
BEST TRACKS: “Pet Politics”, “Inside the Golden Days of Missing You”, “Pretty Eyes”
The Silver Jews’ album “The Natural Bridge” is easily one of the best lo-fi, country-rock albums ever created. That is not at all a biased statement. It is solely factual. Silver Jews was a band composed of David Berman (the lyricist and lead guitar), Stephen Malkmus (guitar and sometimes a lyric collaborator), and Bob Nastanovich (percussionist and keyboardist mainly). In “The Natural Bridge” Berman composed all of the tracks. His lyrics are full of metaphors, religious symbolism, and his monotone, gravel-ly, indie rock voice.
This LP consists of 10 tracks and has a 35 minute and 42 second run time. Each song is distinct, but together the tracks are able to support each other to make a collective sound of loneliness, wandering, and beauty.
The second song, “Pet Politics”, is easily my favorite of the record; it opens with soft acoustic strums and Berman’s calm voice. Then, it slowly dips itself into the heavy lyrics obsessing over death, new Bible creation stories, and pleas for safety. Because this song elicits so much emotion through repetition and simplicity, it feels complete.
Each track on this record itches a scratch I never knew I had. The satisfying guitar and keyboard synthesis puts me in a state of calm acceptance I cannot get from anywhere else, and Berman’s lyricism is one of the reasons I fell in love with this album.
Look at this line on “Inside the Golden Days of Missing You”:
“What if life is just some hard equation on a chalkboard in a science class for ghosts”
This bleak image of the afterlife makes this album meaningful to me, as I love to learn about people’s perspectives on how the world around them works.
Even the instrumental track, “The Right to Remain Silent“, has a purpose in this album rather than being a short filler between songs. Light drums march along, and I am transported to the dusk, empty streets of a nondescript American city. Every song accompanies you as you explore the beautiful, expansive streets of the world alone.
“The Natural Bridge” is no longer an album for me to listen to if I am feeling blue. It became a fervent necessity to focus on every note and word within each track. Silver Jews are able to blend the comfort of country with the exploration of ideology and emotion often seen in indie rock. I have become addicted to listening to this LP, and maybe if you start listening closely, you too might become obsessed like me.