All 3 entries tagged The National
August 25, 2009
One thing that Emusic seems to be alright at, is stocking those little filler EP’s and singles that seem to get lost and never listened to when you’re wandering through your CD collection. I managed to gather a few, and all these bands have been featured on this blog sometime before I’m sure…
The National – Wasp Nest
At the same time as grabbing this, I picked up the self-titled debut, but that, understandably, felt a little unfocused. By contrast, this stop-gap EP between the sophomore LP Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers and the breakthrough Alligator is happily a more succinct distillation of what the band are all about. It features a song each from both those albums (in my opinion, the best ones – a live version of Murder Me Rachael and All The Wine) along with five non-LP originals.
At worst, these do feel like outtakes from the albums, and keep a rather stately pace compared to the featured two, but The National have always been about these understated buildups. Matt Berninger’s deep distinct vocal wrapped around cycling guitar and piano figures or sometimes also a battering rhythmic section (see the end of Cherry Tree or Murder Me Rachael), cementing the identity the band have built up over the course of their career. Rinse, lather, soak, if you’re feeling better… repeat. While it’s no means the best place to start (I’d say the latest, Boxer), if you don’t have the time to delve into the back catalogue, this allows you to dip in at your leisure.
Spoon – 30 Gallon Tank EP
I love Spoon, so I was a little gutted that the Emusic catalogue could only muster up this EP as an offering. The titular single was taken from their sophomore album Series of Sneaks (back in ‘98!), and has the guitar squall of debut Telephono and the more careful arrangement and production approach that would come to the fore with next album Girls Can Tell. That said, unless you really like the band I can’t recommend this record alone, the ‘remix’ of Car Radio (subtitled ‘Different’) is pretty much unlistenable, and the other two tracks pretty much define the term ‘B-side’.
However! Don’t let it put you off the idea of getting into Spoon… they are great! Honest!
The Clientele – That Night, A Forest Grew EP
I have posted about the last two Clientele albums on this blog and this EP acts as a compass pointing towards the next one, Bonfires on the Heath, arriving anytime soon. That forthcoming album will feature one of the tracks here, Share the Night, that shows a blissed out, dare I say, funky side to the Clientele.
All the tracks here share a similar ‘bounce’, an energy that expounds upon the previous effort’s glimmers of sunshine. However, Alistair still sounds as resigned as ever (“Somehow in this dream I’m getting tired” he laments in jaunty opener Retiro Park) yet the Zombies guitar freakouts that poked their head out from the haze on Impossible and Garden at Night make a return with more purpose and more vigour.
A great EP from these guys (and gal), making the wait for the new album, if not unbearable in anticipation, at least somewhat bearable with four fun pop songs to stick on repeat while we do…
Okkervil River – The President’s Dead
I’m going to see the band up in Glasgow in a few weeks, and in a moment of momentary madness I grabbed this single, even though you can download the track for free here and listen to the B-side The Room I’m Hiding In on Spotify.
That said, I love the song, it’s by no means their best, but a great stream of consciousness opening with a simple four chord turnaround before eventually bursting (literally) into a glorious one-line title-repeating chorus with that keyboard line that sounds like it’s breaking the speakers it’s being played through. These things don’t have to be complicated… just good. The B-side is less good, but who cares? This is goooood.
The Long Blondes – (various B-sides)
Just a couple left here from the now (very sadly) broken up Sheffield five-piece, so I’ll make it easy for you. B-sides are generally composites of other ideas or experiments… aren’t they?
Five Ways To End It = A Knife For The Girls x “Couples” more dance-y direction
Fulwood Babylon = Giddy Stratospheres – Giddy + (backing vocals x (chorus + reverb)) + a groove to kill for…
In layman’s terms, yeah, pretty good actually…
Next up: rather predictably… August! In another predictable move I’m going to change the format again! And do single albums again, because I tend to write more, and more clearly… I think.
March 21, 2007
[Photo from Chromewaves.net]
The National are a New York band without all the trappings and baggage that seem to go along with that moniker. They are primarily another indie rock band, but their albums enjoy a mix between the raucous and the reminiscent. The sound is a far cry from the sharp riffs and post-punk beats of many of their contemporaries, opting for a more melodic, layered and ultimately more satisfying approach. They come out with their fourth album, Boxer, later on this year, but it’s definitely worth catching up with some of their older material.
Alligator was the last album they released, and most people’s (including mine) entry point. They toured along with Clap You Hands Say Yeah which was a double edged sword in terms of exposure as most people appeared for the support act and left before the National even took to the stage. Which is undoubtably a stupid thing to do, because Alligator is a fantastic record. Singer, Matt Berninger, dishes out lines somewhere between sarcasm and dead seriousness about various objects of love. The song All The Wine is a brilliant piece of narrative, built over chiming U2 guitars until a final release with Berninger crooning, ‘Nothing can touch us, my love’. Karen is another fantastic tale, a lover trying to explain his actions over rolling piano and lines like ‘It’s a common fetish, for a doting man, to ballerina on the coffee table, cock in hand’, with nary a smirk or a wink of the eye. As I said at the start, they can get explosive at times as well, Abel, Lit Up and the powerful closer Mr. November. The latter crashing around as Berninger sing-shouts ‘I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr. November’ throughout the chorus. The slower, less immediate songs help the album as a whole to grow on you. The more introspective songs such as Daughters of the Soho Riots and City Middle may seem inherently skippable at first, but soon provide a more interesting contrast of pace and mood.
[Photo from the AllTheWine Forum]
I picked up Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers a little later, in the Marketplace of Warwick Uni for a rather tasty £7. It begins with a much darker tone with Cardinal Song, but gets brighter towards the end of the album with songs like the playful Fashion Coat. Yet there’s also a slight country tone apparent, with slide guitar appearing several times and songs like It Never Happened, Trophy Wife and 90-Mile Water Wall displaying that typical alt-country strum and beat. Murder Me Rachel and Available are pretty much most indicative of where the National sound was heading, the former builds up into screeching violins and doesn’t stop, only barely dissolving into muffled shouts and drum rolls after a telling line, ‘Tomorrow won’t be pretty.’ It’s overall not quite as coherent as Alligator, the style of music is more varied and the production sometimes isn’t executed with the same diligence as the stronger songs.
Listen to these, and buy the albums in preparation for Boxer, which is out on May 21st.
From Alligator (2005)
The National – Karen MP3 Expired
The National – All The Wine MP3 Expired
The National – Mr. November MP3 Expired
[Buy] *Highly Recommended*
From Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers (2003)
The National – Slipping Husband MP3 Expired
The National – 90-Mile Water Wall MP3 Expired
The National – Murder Me Rachel MP3 Expired
August 19, 2006
Look! A racing car cake!
Oh, to be six again!
This is for our benevolent group leader and bastion fortress of music love, Mat Mannion, whose glorious birthday it is today (do you think I’m over-doing it a bit?). Because I’m halfway across the world, I humbly present these musical gifts of three over the internet:
I tried to represent the slightly sad (Mr. Bird), the couldn’t care less (Mr. Bowie), and the let’s just use this as an excuse to party (Mr. National) attitudes birthdays always conjure up. Anybody else with a ‘la la la I’m not getting old la la la’ song they’d like to play? I’ll take requests you know…