The National

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Photo Credit: Graham MacIndoe

I didn’t think any tune off Sleep Well Beast was going to top their first single, The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness, but low and behold they’ve gone and done it with Carin at the Liquor Store. And the video below captures the tracks so beautifully in hues of blue and white.

I’m three tracks in, including Guilty Party and it is really shaping up to be something special. I’ve been enjoying the full breadth of their catalog in recent weeks. I’m going to go out on a limb to state that this will be among their best work. I’m counting the days down until I see them at the Opera House in Chicago.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa or @HearYa

The National are here

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Day of the Dead – May 20th

by Woody on March 24, 2016

Dead

As I have stated on HearYa before, I love The Dead. No musical act has had a greater impact at shaping me than The Grateful Dead. I also love the music of today, including many artists that old-school heads will never have heard of. Day of the Dead is a celebration of the Grateful Dead’s music created and curated by brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National. The 59 song, nearly 6 hour compilation is right up my alley. The fact that it is benefiting Red Hot and to help raise awareness and money to fight HIV/AIDS and related health issues makes it about as good as it gets.

The track listing is absurd and is compiled of a who’s who? At first glance, these are the ones I’m looking forward to the most: Box of Rain • Kurt Vile and the Violators (featuring J Mascis), Stella Blue • Local Natives, Cumberland Blues • Charles Bradley and Menahan Street Band, Shakedown Street • Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Brown-Eyed Women • Hiss Golden Messenger.

Here is the lowdown on the 5 tunes they just released yesterday. All five get a big thumbs up from me. The five songs shared today include the first new music from The War on Drugs since 2014’s critically-acclaimed Lost In The Dream with a cover of the Grateful Dead’s 1987 hit ‘Touch of Grey’. Phosphorescent and Jenny Lewis combine with the backing of the in-house band (featuring 4/5 of the National) that contributed to numerous recordings on the compilation, to cover 1971’s ‘Sugaree’. Former Grateful Dead member Bruce Hornsby collaborates with Justin Vernon and DeYarmond Edison, Justin’s reunited first band including Phil and Brad Cook and Joe Westerlund of Megafaun, for ‘ Black Muddy River. Courtney Barnett puts her characteristic slant on ‘New Speedway Boogie’, off the back of numerous accolades for 2015’s GRAMMY-nominated album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. For today’s finaltaste of the full album, The National cover Bonnie Dobson’s ‘Morning Dew’, a Grateful Dead staple since 1967, one of two songs that they contributed to the compilation.

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Day Of The Dead is here

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the national

Can anyone truly capture tension and anxiety like The National?‚  Matt Berninger and crew follow a consistent recipe on their new release, High Violet, released yesterday.‚ ‚  If darkness is indeed palpable, High Violet will make you feel it.

The album kicks off with my favorite track, “Afraid of Everyone,” building to a modest crescendo of nervy, scratchy lead guitar and pulsating percussion that drive a current of tense electricity.‚  Following is the most Boxer-like track on the album, “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and shortly thereafter is the wonderfully depressing “Sorrow.”‚  Even in the brightest of your days, you can’t help but be affected by lyrics such as the opening lines of this track, “sorrow found me when I was young/sorrow waited, sorrow won”.

The sun rarely emerges around the clouds on this album, but like Elliott Smith at his peak, dark music can be wonderfully enjoyable.‚  It isn’t the gloom that resonates on High Violet so much as it is tension.‚  Unlike the bands that followed the trail of Wilco and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in an effort to capture post 9/11 America, or the anxiety of living in the technological world as conveyed by the music of OK Computer, The National seems intent on describing the intensity of our everyday existence; our common maladies.

Unlike Boxer, this album largely lacks the big anthem and the simple moments stand out, the occasional light acoustic strums, soft piano, mixed with appropriate does of string arrangements. This is a great album from a band at its peak.‚  At times the lyrics can be a little wearisome, but all-in-all the music and musicianship is wonderful and reflects the full talent of this band.

The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio

Live Video: The National – Anyone’s Ghost

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Photo courtesy of Chart Attack.

The National kicked off a summer tour last Thursday rolling through Toronto’s unfortunately named Kool Haus, a rather antiseptic venue, part warehouse and part hipster club.‚  This is a band that is definitely bringing it’s A-game right now coming off of two consecutive outstanding albums and contributing significantly to the Dark Was The Night benefit record.‚ ‚  Since this will be one of the headlining acts at the much-anticipated Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, I took one for the team and headed up to one of the great cities in North America to review one of the great indie bands of the day.

On this evening, the band was nicely accented by a small horn section that figured prominently on certain of those Boxer songs, most notably “Fake Empire,” bringing a pounding wall of sound.‚  But for the most part, it was just solid guitar rock, great drums and the manic energy of lead vocalist Matt Berninger. He dressed in suit and skinny tie and exhibited a slight hunch in his posture, probably from carrying the weight of those wrecked relationships of which he so often sings.‚ ‚  Speaking of his lyrics, Berninger has been criticized for lyrics that border on being obtuse.‚  Personally, I fail to see it, although at times find myself amused by a curious choice of words.‚  You have to love lines like the following from “All the Wine” off Alligator. “I’m put together beautifully/big wet bottle in my fist/big wet rose in my teeth/I’m a perfect piece of ass.”

Berninger moves like a taller version of a spastic Thom Yorke and on this night he carried on a perpetual battle with a microphone stand that eventually succumbed to Berninger’s ingenuity. There is uneasy electricity that charges The National’s music and at times reminds me of a less-goth version of Joy Division.‚  Perhaps it is that pounding rhythm section, courtesy of the hugely talented Bryan Devendorf, or possibly Berninger’s Curtis-like baritone.‚  I’m not entirely sure, but it translates well to the stage and should make for a great spectacle under the Chicago summer skies.‚  Remember, this band is well practiced having opened for R.E.M last year in large arena settings and has an extensive catalogue to keep an audience tuned in for the entirety of a show.‚  It all showed up nicely on this evening.

If you’re going to be in the crowd at Pitchfork, you’re fortunate.‚  I can’t wait. And of all the great bands that have signed up to perform that July weekend, The National remains at the top of my list.

The National – So Far Around The Bend

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