Ah yes, another monday, another day sitting around talking about last night and the amazing of blackouts, too little-too late comebacks, and Destinys Child 5 minute reunion. But let’s be real, a lot of these are going to be forgotten about in their due time. I mean, even this morning I couldn’t figure out if Left Eye was or was not in Beyonce’s band. (Update: She’s not. Thanks ladyfriend)
But because last night was such an enjoyable experience I think for everyone that I thought for this week as part of our Covered Series on the National, we should look at a more upbeat cover. Let’s take a look a the National’s song England.
Off of their latest release High Violet, England is the second to last song on the album and it is pry one of the three happiest songs they have ever recorded. Even in it’s melancholy piano and foggy feelings of a love long lost, you can’t help but look positively at the world and see the beauty in the clouds in multiple shades of grey.
For the National, High Violet was their first attempt to create a more upbeat album that focused more on the positives of life. In fact when recording this album the band wrote on their idea board “Make a happy album.” Their 5th album coming on the tail of a critically successful album Boxer and the much adored The Virginia EP, High Violet was a huge step into the band accepting their status as THE band of a generation. Similar in the way that Weezer was the band of my high school years, the National was a staple of college. Starting out in college I was scared, alone, and disenfranchised everyday going to class. I was questioning the world around me and becoming cynical at the eventual rat race waiting for me. Both the album’s Alligator and Boxer changed my life and gave me a voice and a sound that my feelings resonated to. But after college what do you do? Do you keep crying and complaining about your life and how it is less of what you expected? Or do you finally realize that life is actually really good. You graduated, you have a great ladyfriend and some sort of purpose. I mean yes, the economy sucks, I am really depressed as I see my finances disappearing and feel this need to impress everyone from my past as the High School Reunion comes closer, but you can’t help but finally admit that your are successful as a human being!
The song England really addresses that timid recognition of accomplishment. The song sounds melancholy and a little sad, like you just had a really crappy day, but as you sit brooding in your pain, you realize a special moment you had that makes you feel alive. For Matt Berninger, lead singer, it was that moment he was wandering in England and the beauty of the universe absorbed him and for even just a split second he genuinely and truly felt alive. Man, some heavy stuff. The original really attracted me and made me tear up because they used orchestral accompnaments to add a depth to the song that is indescribable but beautiful. It makes me think of the mornings when I would wake up in Italy. Moisture in the air and the slightest breeze that chills you just enough to make you know your alive. You can’t help but just adore and feel the presence of the universe all around you. I can’t explain this feeling but when you have that feeling, you just know it.
The power and influence of the National and their somber and All-American faded sound is far reaching. British band and a highly contested issue with my Ladyfriend, Mumford and Sons have done a fantastic reinterpretation of England. Marcus Mumford’s version of the song maintains that sense of awe and beauty but adds this interesting layer with his gritty voice. The song was recorded during Mumford and Sons VH1 Unplugged session. Although they did another cover on the show of Vampire Weekend, it didn’t feel as strong or as adored like their cover of England. Instead of looking fondly back on a memory of a place that you love, it is a song celebrating the place that you live! It is really interesting watching a band that is primarily focused on a simple acoustic folk sound still add the heaviness required to give this song the gumption and heaviness it deserves. The cover is great not just because I can tell my ladyfriend I like Mumford and Sons too, but because it shows how, depending on your personal background, a song can take on a completely different meaning but still be beautiful.