Artist Spotlight: The National

“It’s about marriages falling apart”

That’s the description of the National’s upcoming 7th LP- Sleep Well Beast. And if you’ve been listening to the 3 tracks that came out in anticipation of the album’s release on September 8th, then you can agree with that statement.

It’s nothing new for Matt Berninger, lead singer of the band, to write about struggling or failing relationships, but this album does present a darker and more somber tone than usual. A premonition of sorts of what would happen if you don’t act now on your struggling relationship. But this is what absolutely fascinates me about this band. They are not your Arcade Fire or Broken Bells who try to re-invent their sound at every turn. They simply are. Their sound is extremely recognizable, and yet, I can listen to any song and be able to mentally categorize it into the correct album.

You can’t deny the Dessner brothers’ attention to detail musically, and with Bryce’s recent venture into film score composition (The Revenant), there is a level of richness to their sound that has not been explored before. Listening to their first released track “The System Only Sleeps in Total Darkness”, it reminds you a bit of “Terrible Love”- the same sense of urgency and prominent instrumental progression throughout the length of the song. And I could not be happier. Even though the band members have referred to High Violet as one of the hardest and back-breaking albums they have written, I appreciated every minute of it. It had structure and form like no other- but the most impressive feat is that it had a soul. A personality. It became a living and breathing figure that would sit on your shoulder the minute you played it, and guide you through your life’s deepest and most scarring moments.

I remember the lyric “you must be somewhere in London, you must be loving your life in the rain” from the track ‘England’, and it felt like it was written about me. I’m sure everyone can say that at some point or another about any song, but I vividly remember this particular one sticking with me. Since I was a young impressionable teen, I’ve always professed my love for the rain, and for living in London with the rain, sitting in a coffee shop sipping on tea and reading a classic. It’s the picture that I’ve formed in my head of what my perfect life would be. And while that perfect life ideal may have changed since, that’s what the National represent. Throughout all 7 of their albums, they have gone through all the stages of real life- love, heartbreak, disappointment, longing, regret, family. You won’t find any songs about being successful, or having anything figured out. But we need that- there’s so much saturated fake happiness in today’s world of music- songs about moments that don’t exist in regular peoples’ lives. It’s refreshing to be able to listen to a record that speaks to you on a level that even you may not admit to yourself – and that is the magic of the National.

So if you haven’t already listened to their new tracks, or perhaps never even heard one- I highly recommend you make that your top priority. Curl up in bed and lose yourself to the most beautiful music you’ll hear today.


Photo by Graham MacIndoe

And how does this make you feel?