-
neumu
Thursday, December 18, 2014 
-
-
--archival-captured-cinematronic-continuity error-daily report-datastream-depth of field--
-
--drama-44.1 khz-gramophone-inquisitive-needle drops-picture book-twinklepop--
-
Neumu = Art + Music + Words
Search Neumu:  

illustration



edited by michael goldbergcontact


The National Find Emotional Balance

With Alligator, The National's third full-length album and first on Beggars Group, this Brooklyn-based, Ohio-born band of brothers assembles an artful collection of mini-stories, evocative lines buried glimmering in dark pop corners, rock outbursts emerging from ruminative sketches. A slow-burning masterwork, Alligator changes every time you listen to it, with new details arresting your attention and new verse fragments lodging in your head. (Listen to the album at www.beggars.com/features/thenational/.)

Following on 2003's Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers, the new record seems, at first impression, more rock-oriented and upbeat than previous efforts. Yet singer/songwriter Matt Berninger, interviewed by email recently, says Alligator is not really a departure. "Alligator contains a healthy amount of sad, dirty stuff so if we were trying to avoid that, we failed," he explained. "The press has seemed a little too focused on the dark sides of our records, but I never felt like we were in a corner. I think both Sad Songs and Alligator are emotionally balanced in that they're sad, funny, tender, irrational, furious and euphoric and we have no plan to avoid any of that."

The National formed in the late 1990s, moving from Cincinnati to Brooklyn, and drawing Berninger together with brothers Scott and Bryan Devendorf and Aaron and Bryce Dessner. Their self-titled debut, out in 2001, drew wide praise, with No Depression calling it "a dozen picture-perfect Americana bar-soaked gems" and Billboard a "dazzling debut." It was followed in 2003 by Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers, darkly evocative tales of broken love and compromise, whose highlights included "Slipping Husband" and "Cardinal Song." A year later, the EP Cherry Tree, the band's last release on small indie Brassland, followed.

A move to Beggars followed in 2004, providing wider exposure, but, according to Berninger, having no effect on the band's whiskey-soaked and literate sound. "Roger Trust and Martin Mills had apparently been fans for a while," he said. "When they heard we were looking for a label, they called. There were other labels interested but Beggars was on the top of our wish list so it didn't take us long to make the move."

He added, "It didn't change the way we work. They said 'We're already huge fans so do whatever you want.' They didn't hear Alligator until it was finished."

Alligator was recorded in the same lo-key, home-based manner as previous National albums. Paul Mahajan engineered most of the tracks, setting up at the band's Red Hook practice space and at Berninger and Bryce Dessner's homes. Peter Katsis did additional recording at Tarquin Studios and mixed the album. "We've always made our records by hopping around to different places with different people," Berninger said. "We've never just booked several weeks in one studio to do the whole thing. We like to take our time and be flexible."

The album draws mostly on the country-tinged sounds of its conventional rock band lineup — two guitars, bass, drums and vocals — yet like other National albums, it weaves in some subtle, gorgeous string arrangements provided by a sixth shadow member, Padma Newsome. Newsome, who lives mostly in Australia and collaborates with Bryce Dessner in Clogs, played violin and viola on Alligator and orchestrated its broad palette of classical instruments — the cello that burnishes "City Middle," and the clarinet and bassoon at the beginning of the lovely "Geese of Beverly Road," among other flourishes. "We've worked with [Newsome] on our last three records," Berninger said. "We send him sketches which he works with, then eventually camps out with us in Brooklyn to record. He's a great collaborator fond of throwing curveballs into the music. He's the sixth member but likes to keep his distance. We don't blame him."

Lyrically, the songs of Alligator feel like abbreviated short stories, with much implied but little spelled out. Puzzling, evocative, sexually charged and weighted with world-weary acceptance and disappointment, lines pop out of the fabric of songs and lodge in your head — "I had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain," "My medium-sized American heart," "I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders," "Serve me the sky with a big slice of lemon." Many of them seem like detailed interior monologues, thought but never spoken, though when asked about this, Berninger responded, "You raise an interesting question. If a conversation between two people takes place in your head, is it an interior monologue or dialogue? I think dialogue."

He added, "I do occasionally steal bits of real conversations or little scraps from movies and TV. Heir to the Glimmering World is a Cynthia Ozick novel that came out while I was finishing the lyrics to 'The Geese of Beverly Rd.' It was just what I needed, thanks Cynthia." This song, he explains, is set in the neighborhood of Brooklyn where he and Bryce Dessner lived during the recording of Alligator, a place called Ditmas Park.

"It's a beautiful neighborhood that feels more like Savannah, Georgia than Brooklyn," he said. "The houses are all free-standing with nice yards and wrap-around porches. I was sitting outside one night watching a bunch of kids running up and down Beverly setting off car alarms. The song is theirs. Recording out there was nice, very relaxed."

Yet while settings may be familiar and phrases may be lifted, Berninger cautions that no one should take his songs as a literal interpretation of any aspect of his life. He said, "The songs are not quite autobiographical. They're combinations of real situations and delusional storytelling. They're things I care about, obsessions, insecurities, fantasies, etc. There are a lot of naked awkward moments in the songs but I don't feel over-exposed. It's fun to dig into the ugly, ridiculous corners of our psyches and shine a light into it. Again, some of it is just juicy fiction."

The National are presently in Europe, and will play more dates in the UK in November. Tour dates can be found at the band's Web site. — Jennifer Kelly [Tuesday, August 23, 2005]


Alejandro Escovedo's Joyous Rebirth

John Vanderslice Kicks Genre

Paul Duncan's Elusive Pop

Stephen Yerkey's Wandering Songs

French Kicks Complete 'Two Thousand'

Spazzy Romanticism: Love Story In Blood Red

Brain Surgeons NYC Rock The Big Questions

Jarboe's 'Men' Charts Turbulent Emotions

Delta 5's Edgy Post-Punk Resurrected

Blitzen Trapper Spiff Things Up

Minus Five: Booze, Betrayal, Bibles and Guns

New Compilation Spotlights Forgotten Folk Guitar Heroes

Chris Brokaw's Experiment In Pop

Old And New With Death Vessel

Silver Jews: Salvation And Redemption

Jana Hunter's Beautiful Doom

Vashti Bunyan Finds Her Voice Again

Nick Castro's Turkish Folk Delight

Katrina Hits New Orleans Musicians Hard

Paula Frazer's Eerie Beauty

The National Find Emotional Balance

Death Cab For Cutie's New Album, Tour

Heavy Trash's Rockabilly Rampage

Help The Wrens Get Their Albums Released!

Devendra Banhart, Andy Cabic Launch Label

Lydia Lunch's Noir Seductions

Bosque Brown's The Real Deal

PDX Pop Now! Fest Announces Lineup

Sarah Dougher Starts Women-Focused Label

Jennifer Gentle's Joyful Psyche

Mountain Goat Darnielle Gets Autobiographical With 'Sunset Tree'

Mia Doi Todd's Beautiful Collaboration

Return of the Gang of Four

Martha Wainwright Finds Her Voice

Brian Jonestown Massacre's Acid Joyride

Solo Disc Due From Pixies' Frank Black

Heartless Bastards' Big-Hearted Rock

Mike Watt's Midlife Journey

The Black Swans Balance Old And New

Nicolai Dunger's Swedish Blues

The Insomniacs' Hard-Edged Pop

Yo La Tengo Collection Due

Juana Molina's 'Homemade' Sound

Beans Evolves

Earlimart's Songs Of Loss

Devendra Banhart's 'Mosquito Drawings'

Negativland Rerelease 'Helter Stupid'

Alina Simone Transforms The Ordinary

Sounds From Nature: Laura Veirs

Octet's Fractured Electric Pop

Sleater-Kinney Working With Lips Producer

The Cult Of Silkworm

The Evolution Of The Concretes

Devendra Banhart's Exuberant New Songs

Catching Up With The Incredible String Band

Gram Rabbit's Desert Visions

Three Indie-Rock Stars Unite As Maritime

Remembering Johnny Ramone

Jarboe's Many Voices

Phil Elvrum's Long Hard Winter

First U.S. Release For Vashti Bunyan Album

Incredible String Band To Tour U.S.

New Music From Lydia Lunch

Le Tigre Protest The Bush War Presidency

Joel RL Phelps: Bleak Songs Rock Hard

Time Tripping With Galaxie 500

Patti Smith Wants Bush Out!

Sharron Kraus: A New Kind Of Folk Music

The Fiery Furnaces' Psychedelic Theater

Harder, Heavier Burning Brides

Sonic Youth's Ongoing Experiment

The Dt's Do It Their Way

Poster Children Cover Political Rock

Rare Thelonious Monk Recordings Due

Uneasy Pop From dios

Beck, Lips, Waits Cover Daniel Johnston

Understanding Franz Ferdinand

The Truly Amazing Joanna Newsom

Mylab's Boundary-Crossing Experiments In Sound

Have You Heard Jolie Holland Whistle?

The 'Magical Realism' Of Vetiver

The Restless, Rootsy Songs Of Eszter Balint

The Sun Sets On The Blasters

Devendra Banhart To Tour U.S.

The East/West Fusion Sounds Of Macha

Destroyer Gets Mellow For Your Blues

TV On The Radio Get Political

Sonic Youth, Modest Mouse To Play Lollapalooza 2004

New Music From The Fall

Apocalyptic Sound From The Intelligence

Fast And Rude With The Casual Dots

'Rejoicing' With Devendra Banhart

New Album, Tour From The Polyphonic Spree

Shearwater Take Wing

Sleater-Kinney To Tour East/West Coasts

Resurrecting Rocket From The Tombs

Visqueen Want To Get A Riot Goin' On

Lloyd Cole Makes A Commotion

Funkstörung's 'Cut-Up' Theory

Waiting For Mirah's C'mon Miracle

Electrelane Find Their Voice

The Television Is Still On!

Experimental Sounds From Hannah Marcus

The Ponys Play With Rayguns

Ex-Mono Men Leader Returns With The Dt's

Mountain Goats' Darnielle Adopts A More Hi-Fi Sound

Sun Kil Moon To Tour U.S., Europe

Nothin' But The Truth From The Von Bondies

Sultans Survive 'Shipwreck'

Sebadoh Reunite For Spring Tour

Xiu Xiu's 'Reality' Rock

Meet The Patients

Beth Orton, M. Ward Make Sadness Taste Sweet

Oneida's Pathway To Ecstasy

Radiohead, Pixies, Dizzee Rascal To Play Coachella

Young People Tour Behind War Prayers

Pixies Tour Dates Announced

Ani DiFranco Tells It Like It Is

Deerhoof Back For 2004 With Milkman

McLusky Set To 'Bring On The Big Guitars' Again

Pixies Reunite For U.S., European Tours

American Music Club, Decemberists To Play NoisePop 2004

Damien Rice Set To Tour U.S.

The Frames Accept Your Love

Punk Rock's A-Frames To Re-Record Third Album

Finally! Mission Of Burma Record New Album

A Solo Detour For Ladybug Transistor's Sasha Bell

Return Of The Old 97's

Spending The Night With Damien Rice

Tindersticks Reissues Due This Spring

The Evolution Of 'A Silver Mt. Zion'

Neil Young Rocks Australia With 'Greendale'

Poster Children Back In Action

'The Great Cat Power Disaster Of 2003'

Chicks On Speed's Subversive Strategies

Oranger At A Crossroad

Peaches On Tour And In Control

Jawbreaker's Complete Dear You Sessions To Be Released

Belle & Sebastian + Trevor Horn = Sunny Pop Nirvana

Von Bondies' Pawn Shoppe Heart

Descendents Are Back!

Modest Mouse Touring; Album Due in 2004

London Suede Take A (Permanent?) Break

Saul Williams Wants You To Think For Yourself

The 'Zen' Sound Of Calexico

Elliott Smith Dead AT 34

Debut Due From Mark Kozelek's Sun Kil Moon

The Hunches: Music That'll 'Fucking Live Forever'

Vic Chesnutt Speaks His Mind

90 Day Men Cancel Tour

Keith Jarrett, Cecil Taylor Highlight SF Jazz Festival

For My Morning Jacket, It's The Music That Matters

EP Due From The Polyphonic Spree

Bright Eyes, Neva Dinova Collaborate On EP

The Rise & Fall & Rise Of Ben Lee

Catching Up With Cheerfully Defiant Tricky

Hanging Around With The Polyphonic Spree

Sophomore Album Due From The Shins

Noise Rock From Iceland's Singapore Sling

Death Cab To Tour U.S.

Rufus Wainwright's Want One Is 'Family Affair'

Death Cab's Transatlanticism On The Way

Heartfelt Rock From Sweden's Last Days Of April

The Minus 5 Get Down With Wilco

Tywanna Jo Baskette's Southern-Gothic Rock

Xiu Xiu's Stewart Takes On 'Gay-bashing'

Portishead Producer Resurfaces Behind New Diva

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wire, Primal Scream On Buddyhead Comp

Yeah Yeah Yeahs To Tour West Coast

Sonic Youth, Erase Errata Kick Off 'Buddy Series'

The Locust Are One Scary Band

Damien Rice In The 'Here And Now'

Remembering Karp's Scott Jernigan

ATP-NY Postponed 'Til At Least 2004

The Soul Of Chris Lee

Gits' Frenching The Bully To See Re-Release

Stephen Malkmus Is In Control

Superchunk To Release Rarities Set; Teenage Girls To Swoon As A Result

Summer Touring For The Gossip

Babbling On About Deerhoof

Irish Song Poet Damien Rice's O Released In U.S.

Chatting With ATP's Barry Hogan

Former Digable Planets Frontman Surfaces With Cherrywine

ATP L.A. Festival Rescheduled For Fall

Freakwater's Janet Bean Takes A Solo Turn

Lee's 'Cool Rock'

Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs Highlight YES NEW YORK

Mark Romanek's 'Hurt' Revives Johnny Cash's Career

The Rapture's Post-Punk, Post-Dance Sound

R.E.M., Wilco, Modest Mouse Highlight Bumbershoot Fest

Set Fires To Flames' Sleep-Deprivation Sound

Southern Gothic Past Shadows Verbena's La Musica Negra

The Subtle Evolution Of Yo La Tengo

Spring Tour For Jolie Holland (Plus A Live Album)

Liz Phair Still Pushing The Limits

Gold Chains Wants You To Dance And Think

Young People's War Prayers On The Way



peruse archival
 



-
-snippetcontactsnippetcontributorssnippetvisionsnippethelpsnippetcopyrightsnippetlegalsnippetterms of usesnippetThis site is Copyright © 2003 Insider One LLC
-