The National’s “Conversation 16”

23 Jun

I have to admit, for a long time I didn’t care too much for The National. I think it’s the kind of music they play; pulling off such somber, brooding songs is tricky. The line between melodrama and pretense is a hard one to navigate. I wasn’t ever quite sure if they were being genuine or if they were manufacturing exactly the sort of darkness that the indie crowd’s more cynical members like to pretend isn’t affect. But with their latest album, High Violet, The National have finally (and magnificently) mastered the tools they need to author their bleak landscapes and leave all questions of genuineness behind.

Because, I mean, come on, this track has everything. The production is immaculate, rich, and textural. The percussion throughout is propulsive and, given The National’s aforementioned characteristic bleakness, imbues the song with a sense of hidden panic, a sense of being thrown into something before you’re ready, which in many ways exactly what High Violet is about. Matt Beringer’s melodies are smooth and engaging; they way they open up for the bridge and coast on a handful of reverbed harmonies (as he sings the line “I’m evil”) alone makes the song. There’s no made-for-hipster quirkiness, no cloying lines (like Boxer‘s “Ada don’t talk about reasons / why you don’t want to talk about reasons / why you don’t want to talk”… blech…), no parts sung so indiscernably you can almost imagine Beringer in the recording studio walking away, depressed, unable to finish the track. It’s a cohesive, unquestionable statement; it’s a tangible, evocative song, studded with phenomenal lyrics, and it’s made me a believer.

The National – Conversation 16 [mp3]

– Dominick


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