A day late, a buck short, but since it was MlkJr. Day than I can justify a Tuesday post for Music for Mondays.
Seeing as it was MLK Jr. Day I thought it would be good to talk about American things. You know, true American things. Things like the cynical approach to the American Dream. Angsty men and women looking at challenging the status quo and pushing our thoughts past cynicism and into inspiratations for growth. To those ideas of change that can only be brought on by a few brave soles willing to tread into our darkness and truth to help us find the light. Mlk Jr. was a true inspiration and has spurred on many people to find their passion and push the limits of the status quo. Especially in music I have always felt that it has been a strong outlet for people who want change.
Modern American Band the National has encapsulated that sense of somber hope in their songs and albums. Each song that you listen to really addresses the sadness behind our lives and the pressure of following blindly some sort of mundane pattern only to feel as though we are forever perpetuated into this cycle of failure. But at the same time, when listening to their albums, you feel this sense of hope because someone out there feels the same pain that you do and that at the end of the day it’s going to be okay because of this companionship through sadness. You feel that you have the strength to get up and keep going.
The National is made up of two sets of brothers, Aaron and Bryce Dressner and Scott and Bryan Devendor, and lead singer Matt Berninger. The band came from quintessential American town of Cincinatti, Ohio. Together starting in 1999, they pioneered and helped define this somber melancholy depressed American sound. In fact in the book This Will End in Tears: The Miserabilists Guide to Music, the have claimed The National as the quintessential depressed American band. What I really like about the band is that all of their songs are bar-soaked gems. I imagine me in my middle age years sitting depressed in a worn out suit at the bar with a whiskey and hearing Fake Empire blasting on the Jukebox.
But what is funny about how sad this band is, I can’t help but feel like they inspire some sense of hope and pride in America. The song Mr. November from the album Alligator was this fast paced and loud song that inspired political hope and was an integral brand identifier for President Obama’s 2008 campaign of Change. Even though I can get swallowed up in my shallow and depressing situation, listening to the National always inspires me to persevere and push on. More about that later this month.
Needless to say I am not the only person that likes the National. Many artists have always stated that the National is on their top albums. Mumford and Sons, Frightened Rabbits, Spoon, Nick Cave and many others see them as the quintessential American band.
Australian artist Julia Stone has done a fantastic cover of their song Bloodbuzz, Ohio off of their most recent album High Violet. The song is a focal point on the album focusing on Matt Berninger’s deep vocals and his feeling of being lost in our modern world. In fact the video depicts Matt lost in thought wandering New York City in a worn suit and dress coat. A sartorial inspiration for a real man. Julia Stone’s cover of this song highlights the most important part of the song which is that intimate relationship the singer builds with their audience. Stone has stripped most of the instrumentals away to soften the song and really make it a moment of pure emotion and give you five minutes of time to be lost in thought. I think she did a great job capturing the mood of this song. Compare them both here,