Tag Archives: the national

Top Five Songs To Convince Your Wife To Go To A National Concert

26 Mar

It can be very hard to take a band like The National seriously. They’re really not much of a band for subtlety and they only ever traffic in a single emotion. However, they do it well. They’re evocative and cinematic with every beat. They drown you with their longing and nostalgia. There is no one as able to write characters that would rather wallow in mistakes than fix them and no one as able to make that feel romantic. There is a lot to make fun of in all of this, but there’s also really good music and that’s all the argument they really need.

5. Fake Empire

Really here, I just want to highlight the crescendo at the end of the song. It is a fascinating touch. It’s not unusual in rock but I would expect it more from a band like Speedy Ortiz, not from a band as hermetic as The National.

4. I Am Easy To Find

For I Am Easy To Find, The National featured guest vocalists on almost every track and they were all women. It’s incredible how much adding female perspectives did for the album and for this song. The comedy of two people singing about how easy they both are to find when clearly neither of them is going to look is just a fun listen.

3. Exile Vilify

This is as gentle and as heartfelt as The National has ever been and somehow fits perfectly with the emotions of Portal. RIP Companion Cube. You deserved better.

2. I Need My Girl

I don’t think it’s possible to make a more National song than “I Need My Girl.” That title really tells you everything you need to know for the song. However, there will never be a song that does as good a job of capturing a single emotion as this one does. Sometimes, you do need your girl and if you can’t actually have her, at least you can know that there is someone else who feels as you do.

1. City Middle

“You said “I think I’m like Tennessee Williams”
I wait for the click. I wait, but it doesn’t kick in
I think I’m like Tennessee Williams
I wait for the click. I wait, but it doesn’t kick in”

It’s an incredibly compulsive stanza. It completes the song by itself but then moves into a vocalization that lets both you and the song exhale for a perfect extra beat. This is the best of an already excelllent band.

Bonus: Bartees Strange

I love opening acts. They can be a bit of a crapshoot, but that’s true of every concert and Bartees Strange is an exciting choice. Try “Flagey God” and you’ll see why. This club-influenced rock track does a lot of interesting things and has as much of an earworm for a hook as you’ll ever find.

The National – I Am Easy To Find

24 Jul

The National is the band for whom consistency is a curse as much as a blessing. There is no other band in indie rock, and possibly all music, quite as dependable as The National. They are very good at what they do and it’s always worth listening to what they put out, but their albums have a way of blending together, at least until I Am Easy To Find.

The National have clearly defined their space over their time making music. They are the feeling of looking out a grey, rainy day from inside a warm house. There’s melancholy but there’s also enough coziness to let you fully wallow in it. This album has all of the melancholy and intimacy and gentleness that The National have always evoked, but this is also their first album to feature guest vocalists to such a degree.

The guests take away the major fault of The National to date, the self-centeredness. Making it so that Berninger is no longer the only perspective is a massive, fundamental shift to the way the album feels and this jolt is exactly what The National has needed for some time.

“I Am Easy To Find”, for instance, does really well for adding a female vocalist. What would have been a rather typical song about yearning becomes something much stronger by twinning singers. There’s much more depth and subtlety than before, especially when one voice fades in or out. It’s simple and understated in the way that the best songs of The National have always been, but much more mature than their previous work.

It’s the same, but slightly more so for “The Pull of You”, which most completely delivers on the album’s premise. From the start with a few seconds free of vocals before Lisa Hannigan to Matt Berninger allowing power to come into his voice in the chorus to the tautness of “I know I can get attached and then unattached / To my own versions of others / My view of you comes back and drops away,” there’s a lot in this song that works in a way very familiar and yet new and better.

The more skewed “Oblivions” is also a stand-out. Berninger puts down the base of the song, but it is Mina Tindle who does all of the work to elevate it. Berniger’s staging of the song is hugely important, but Tindle is absolutely excellent. As is “Roman Holiday”, which conjures quick image after quick image. However, there is still a lot in the album that never quite breaches the haze that The National so expertly sets up. There’s a lot of music that just fades into the rest.

The National basically started fully formed. Their aesthetic of cinematic, but shot in a soft and quiet black and white, has been there from day one. With I Am Easy To Find though, they’ve pushed it somewhere that feels completely novel and in doing so made one of their best albums to date.

The National: Trouble Will Find Me

3 Feb

You always know what you are going to get with a National album. As ever, Trouble Will Find Me is a technically skilled yet highly accessible alternative rock album. They remain evocative and emotional. They maintain their darkness and their humor. They are still very personal. The only issue is that their sound has also stayed constant.

It often feels that every single song by The National is the same. This is blatantly untrue, even when brought down to the scale of just this album. “Don’t Swallow The Cap”, for instance, pushes you forward with its plays while songs like “Fireproof” lounge in their melancholy. Also, quality shifts. The two aforementioned songs are excellent, while songs like “Sea of Love” and “Slipped” are fine, but instantly forgettable.

This is an album to listen to while staring out at a gray sky. Occasionally, phrases or tunes will reach your mind and draw a smile. They are after all a clever band. Lines like “I am secretly in love with everyone I grew up with” from “Demons” are too human not to relate to. However, like the rain outside, the album is too familiar and too uniform to ever interrupt your inner dialogue, and an album needs to do more to impress.


%d bloggers like this: