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To create the Silver Jews’ second full-length album, David Berman bid farewell to his former assistants from Pavement and called instead upon the talents of Drag City’s Rian Murphy and members of New Radiant Storm King. While The Natural Bridge is a quieter, more sorrowful piece than its predecessor, Starlite Walker, the difference reflects Berman’s melancholy muse more than the band’s personnel changes. The album opens with the assertion, “No I don’t really want to die/I only want to die in your eyes.” These lines, with roots both in country-western music and small-press verse, set the tone for the best of what’s to come. But since Bridge’s musical and lyrical hooks are fleeting, the album’s songs have more in common with the latter than the former. This kinship to poetry is underscored by the fact that these songs move cyclically rather than in a linear progression of verses. While Berman’s dour voice and melodies are offset by his humor, the sadness that remains in the Charlottesville, Va., resident’s songs is not necessarily communal. He employs his moods not to make the listener compliant with the singer’s perspective, but rather to compel one simply to return to the work. To paraphrase “Pet Politics,” listeners should find it amazing how they go where they’re led.

—Chris Nelson