I have a weird relationship with the music of The National. Most of the music grips me in places I don’t want to be touched, yet I listen over and over again, letting it not only touch me but embrace me, pull me in close and whisper in my ear. Sometimes it’s ok and I get a certain comfort from it, like somebody sitting quietly next to you, just handing you tissues as you mourn a loss. But sometimes it pushes a button and takes me to a floor I didn’t want to get off on. And I stay there. I stay on that floor with that music, with that awkward arm around me, with emotions that flood my heart and my eyes and I revel in it.
There are some albums more than others that force these feelings upon me. Boxer and Alligator both have the ability to set me on a path that usually ends in tears and a feeling like having your soul poked with a stick repeatedly.
And here is Trouble Will Find Me, an album that took just one listen to surpass both Boxer and Alligator in terms of emotions felt and fists squeezed around my heart.
Make no mistake, it’s not simply a case of lyrics hitting home. No, there’s so much more to the National and especially to Trouble Will Find Me than that. It’s in the tone, in Matt Berninger’s beautiful baritone, in the presentation and arrangement. It’s all put together in carefully constructed layers; a cake made of ingredients you find in your brain at 3am. All this beauty and sadness, all the poignancy and melancholy, crafted so precisely, so perfectly layered you can barely tell one piece of the cake from another, you just devour it without knowing which parts are which and you taste everything at once. You’re smiling, you’re crying, your heart is soaring, your heart is breaking, you want to turn off the record and never listen again and you want to listen to nothing but this forever.
So you listen. And your heart goes one way while your brain goes another. There’s a tug of war between your rational self and your emotional self, part of you just wanting to enjoy the intricate melodies, the lullaby lilt of Berninger’s singing and part of you wanting to just find someone to cling on to and hold tight while you weep and sigh and love and rage.
The best thing about Trouble Will Find Me is the best thing about most of The National’s music; each song is immediately familiar and known, a friend you didn’t know you even had until it knocked on your door and let itself into your world. You pour it a cup of tea and sit there talking about love and loss and fear and anger like you’ve been friends forever. In a way you have. Trouble Will Find Me is a culmination of all your inner thoughts and emotions come to life. That friend you’re having tea with, that song you let into your house and heart is just really a piece of you. The National are best at being familiar, at turning a mirror on you while you listen to their music so you’re never listening alone, there’s always your Demons to hang out with, there’s always the trouble that will find you, knock on your door in the form of album full of salt for your wounds and then offer you a salve for the sting.
If you are your own best friend and your own worst enemy, Trouble Will Find Me is a manifestation of self, something to listen to alone - which is really the way to listen to all of their albums. But you’re never really alone. You share this one with your demons, with your hidden skeletons, with all those 3am ghosts that hover around your bed. And you don’t mind. You don’t mind them coming out because my god, the music is beautiful and heartbreaking, music that needs to be shared, even if it’s with just the other parts of yourself that understand how a simple set of notes strung together can make you feel so much.
I’ve tried to foist The National on others to no avail. Maybe they don’t hear what I do. Maybe they don’t listen for it. Perhaps The National is one of those bands that you have to have a certain mindset to get. To someone else, maybe all the songs sound the same, maybe in a perfect world that voice and these arrangements and the low key cadence shouldn’t work. Maybe if you live in a world that has its share of cracks and sharp edges you can hear it. You can hear it in “I Should Live in Salt” and “Sea of Love” and you can feel it in “Slipped” and “This is the Last Time.” In a perfect world a band like this couldn’t pull off six albums of sounding exactly like the other albums, but in a perfect world we don’t need the comfort of songs that sound like old friends to sit with us while we mourn. In a perfect world, everything sounds like a pop song played on a car stereo on a hot summer evening, but this is not a perfect world and sometimes things need to sound like this, like the world is cracked and peeling and falling apart and the only thing that holds it together is knowing you’re not alone. So you slow dance with your demons and skeletons and ghosts while you listen to Trouble Will Find Me, knowing your cracked world is, in a way, perfect for you and whoever else finds their heart in these songs.
I made a (itunes, not spotify) playlist to help me sleep on the plane. If you have anything you think I should add to it, any good songs that will lull me into a false sense of non-anxiety and perhaps slumber, let me know.
Lisa and I were bored so we put our boredom to good use and came up with a new music meme thing!
Music meme things have come and gone (and some are still around) and we love them because those of us who post a lot of music like to have a cue or a prod or something to write about to go with our music. We like to share the music we love with our followers. We also love getting to listen to what the people we follow are sharing. So here we are with another reason to post a song every day. Another meme. Another thing. This one is kind of a group effort.
Going off what was done with the 52 weeks thing on tumblr last year, we decided to come up with vague, open-ended themes that could be interpreted in a number of different ways. That’s right. A different theme every day. Every day.
That’s a lot of themes, you say. How are you going to keep coming up with so many? Well, that’s where you come in. We’ve made a Google Doc just for this occasion (anyone who wants to make this doc look nice or fix it up, feel free). We’ve started you off with two weeks of songs. Now anyone can go in and put in a theme on a day that’s open. We’ll just keep filling in the days until some time in the future when - as happens with all memes - interest wanes and drops off and something else gets our attention.
We just ask that you look at the themes posted already so you can see where we’re going with this. The ability to take a theme different ways is key to making this interesting.
We also encourage everyone who takes part in this - and whether you do it every day or just once in a while is completely up to you, there are no rules here - to write a little about the song you choose and why you chose that one.
So you’ve got 14 themes/days to start with. It’s up to you (us) to keep those dates filled with new themes. These themes are wide open. Maybe they remind you of something, or maybe you want to take it literally or maybe we’ll never know why you chose that particular song to go with that theme, and we’re ok with that. It’s all about the fun and the music and the randomness.
Mostly, it’s about the group participation. So go into that doc and start adding themes. This is wide open. Also, feel free to go into any month from now til December (yea, we have high hopes).
Tag your posts #themesong and feel free to reblog/pass around/whatever.
Hope you play along!
edit:I know we said there are no rules to #themesong but there is a rule and it’s a pretty big one.
Once a theme has been entered for a date, do not go in and change it. Especially do not edit or change a theme someone else has entered. For real. That’s not nice.