Thursday, February 18, 2010

Record Review: Beach House - Teen Dream

via Ragged Words
By Daniel Greenwood
: 9/10
In Three Words: Ignore The Hype!

Hype can be a terrible thing. Personally, the stir whipped up around Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion and Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest made them partially unlistenable in 2009. It’s not just because people like those records so much (and talk about them so much), it’s that it removes what’s once personal about a record, as is evident on the earlier work of those bands. Feels is Animal Collective at their loneliest, and Yellow House is Grizzly Bear half-asleep in the dusty nook of a cabin somewhere. If MPP and Veckatimest are ‘unlistenable’ now, it’s only because the light at the heart of the records might take years to really make itself known to any of us (especially Grizzly Bear’s efforts).

A fragment of the hype surrounding Grizzly Bear fell upon Beach House the moment Victoria Legrand lent her hearty swoon to Veckatimest’s ‘Two Weeks’. It’s a song that feels more like a Beach House impression on the part of Ed Droste, admittedly a huge fan of Legrand’s band. And expectation has been high for the sandy-soled Baltimoreans ever since. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally are being tipped get global. Gladly, on Teen Dream, any worldwide euphoria is tentative, and the things that make this band so appealing remain in the surf of these songs.

Teen Dream begins and ends in earnest. ‘Zebra’ is an opening lament of someone or something that got away: ‘Don’t I know you better than the rest,’ sings Legrand. It might also be a neat metaphor for the music itself, the personal connection you can have with a song you love, as if it was all your own. In the end, this entity, this thing you’re after, it’s like Legrand’s black and white horse running before her, ‘arching among us’.

The finale, ‘Take Care’, is the album’s strongest song both melodically and in seeing the duo return to their roots. Legrand’s voice dips and peaks, piggybacking Scally’s looping licks. ‘I’ll take care of you/if you ask me to/in a year or two,’ goes the refrain. Legrand is back to the voice of old – the wishful heart of both Beach House and Devotion.

In between these two pillars are eight songs that see Beach House attempt to lift their sound and tempo. ‘Norway’ has the chaste whisper of a Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac track whilst ‘Silver Soul’ sees the pair replace lullabies with anthems of helplessness and despair: ‘It is happening again!’ ‘Used to Be’ is an update on the 7-inch released last winter, a strong redraft of an already fine song. The simplicity of that tender 4/4 kick suits Beach House well. It’s inviting rather than blasé.

‘Real Love’ will please lovers of Devotion the most, with a sense of longing that Legrand pushes further than anywhere else on Teen Dream. Scally and Legrand step away from the electronic encroachments on their droning, analogue sound, with Legrand playing piano ivories like a strong wind through leaves. ‘I met you somewhere/in an air beneath the stairs,’ she wails, and it’s here that this record finally sits itself down next to you. Not unlike Merriweather Post Pavilion or Veckatimest, Teen Dream might be overcooked by talking heads, but in time, even a year or two, this record will meet you again. You may well be underneath the stairs.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lists: My Top 100 Albums of the 2000s - 10 to 1

10. Stars of the Lid - The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid

Perhaps it's late 2008 with the streetlamps spilling orange light onto the bare branches; or the spring of 2009, with the clocks going forward, daffodils nodding in front gardens in the blue light of a chilly April-time dawn.

9. Joanna Newsom - The Milk-Eyed Mender

January 2007 definitely. Rain falling on grey paving, cracked slabs spurting black muck when stepped on. But then there's a harp and a harpsichord: 'I am blue, and unwell.'

8. Deerhunter - Microcastle

The clocks have gone back, it's early November. It's stuffy on the tube, the trains are empty but the floors are covered with wet footprints that glint in the glare of the halogen bulbs.

7. The Clientele - Strange Geometry

Ireland, June 2007, whirring along the lanes lit green on either side. 'Julia, I get on my knees!' Sitting on the flat rocks, looking out at the ocean that is unending, apparently beyond it lies America. The water is sparkling and sloshing: 'I can't seem to make you mine/through the long and lonely nights/but I tried so hard, darling.'

6. Animal Collective - Feels

Summer 2007, drunk and listening to Loch Raven, staring at an old Japanese painting of a bird on the mantlepiece. Or else it's lying in bed listening to Banshee Beat and having the quiet revelation come full-circle: 'I don't think that I like you anymore.'

5. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver

March 2007: Sunny weather. Someone Great's mourning work amidst the throbbing incandescence of Western Ireland's motorways.

4. Panda Bear - Person Pitch

'When my soul stops growing.' Sitting in a ferry cabin, the water green in the porthole window, the uneven gait you acquire the moment you try to stand up. 'Hey man, what's your problem?/Don't you know that I don't belong to you.' The feeling of beginning, eventually. Infinity.

3. Joanna Newsom - Ys

Driving to Scotland, the smell of methane coming from the fields, where cows and bulls sit in the aftermath of a long downpour.

2. Broken Social Scene - You Forgot It in People

March 2006: What a recommendation. I called you to make sure. Any excuse. Spring in Liverpool: broad blue skies, the red-brick university buildings basking in the golden light of the early afternoon.

1. Arcade Fire - Funeral

March 2005: Hearing Haiti upon descending into King's Cross tube station, like a song I'd heard before, so familiar. Like much of the good in life. August 2005: Seeing a friend's face when he emerged from the tent at Reading - euphoria, confusion, disbelief. September 2005: Leaving London in a car full of stuff. 'We let our hair grow long/and forget all we used to know'. I kissed her dancing to Power Out.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lists: My Top 100 Albums of the 2000s - 20 to 11

I said too little last time, no pictures as punishment (overruled):

20. Mt. Eerie - Lost Wisdom

Phil Elverum. We saw him in Tufnell Park. Had never been there before. Graeme bought two tickets and came down from Liverpool. It was a bleak October night. High Places supported, I bought 03/07 - 09/07 from Rob Barber and lost it somewhere on London Bridge as we whizzed into the river through slots in the bridge barriers. I bought Lost Wisdom from Phil Elverum. I didn't lose it. Graeme wished he'd brought a CD for Phil to sign. We got lost and walked over another bridge, towards the Tate. We scuffed our shoes like percussive instruments on the wet and mucky iron bridge.

19. Liars - Drum's Not Dead

Downloading music has its perils. You listen to a record only briefly through these dull computer speakers that hyperventilate at the presence of a bassline. That was August 2007. In June 2008 Liars played with Deerhunter and High Places in a theatre renovated by volunteers. Mostly students and recent graduates who aren't native Scousers. We got to the show early and a big van with a Czech plate was parked outside. Bradford Cox was crouched outside the doors of the venue smoking a cigarette and prodding an mp3 player with this finger. He wore black shades and seemed moody. A girl lulled around the entrance complaining of a stomach ache. High Places were soundchecking inside, loudly. We were the only non-band members there for a while.

18. Grizzly Bear - Yellow House

'The Knife' did the rounds on MTV2's 120 minutes. That was the way to find out about music. It's a song that has no real pull, just this looping melody that goes on and on. It does suck you down like the sand that swallows the band in the video. I found Yellow House in HMV in Liverpool and had no real interest in it for months. But there was an allure early on, perhaps the surprise of actually finding this record in that temporary store, in a city with poor record shops. This album performs something like mourning work. Listening to 'Little Brother' in an aeroplane over the clouds, a little dinky plane a speck below: 'My little brother will be born again.'

17. Beach House - Devotion

Sitting in Liverpool Lime Street, the train begins to pull away. On my mp3 player is an album I uploaded from John's computer. It has a picture of a man and a woman sitting around a table with a cake and candles. The music throbs a bit, matching the rhythm of the pendelino. It's a faintly sunny morning, a mist is dissolving in the fields. A woman is singing in a sometimes harsh whisper about astronauts, Turtle Island, by the dark of the park. I will wait for you there weeping silently.

16. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam

September 2007. Back in Liverpool, desperate to be there. Screaming 'YATZAH YATZAH' along with Avey Tare to that opening track. Now it's November, fireworks night is a shocker. Sefton Park is full of people, a mass of dark shapes, an amorphous squelching mass. You play up, and you play up for months to come. November in the North, a trench. A while later I'm lying in bed one evening: 'At the end of the day/when no one else is looking'. Chores gets you out of it.

15. The Decemberists - Picaresque

You send me SMS after SMS about the Decemberists. I'm not talking to you to try and be cruel. It works. You quote 'Angels and Angles', I don't care. You have ingrained in me an interest in this band. I do a Homer Simpson and give Picaresque to a family member as a Christmas present. She hates Colin Meloy's voice. 'Can I borrow it?' 'Oh, take it, please.' The Engine Driver, We Both Go Down Together. On The Bus Mall is haunting. And months later I put it on the stereo and look at you while it plays. It's not you. It's the song. And you've got your own back, again.

14. Jens Lekman - Oh, You're So Silent Jens

November 2007, Manchester. They actually have this in HMV? I pick it up. I'm telling you, you should listen to this record. Like fuck do you. You listen to Cat Power, and even then you barely listen to her. You won't be borrowing this one. Jens Lekman becomes a limb. Maple Leaves, Rocky Dennis's Farewell Song, I Saw Her at the Anti-War Demonstration. Jens taught me to sing. He taught me how to forget about you.

13. Gas - Nah Und Fern

I am yet to read a satisfying written account of this music.

12. Sufjan Stevens - Seven Swans

Going to classes at 9am, sleeping at midday. Enduring sleep paralysis, throwing my shoulders upwards, breaking the hold. She was cleaning her bedroom and my stereo came on. Seven Swans was in the CD player. It was a numinous experience, she said, sitting on her windowsill with a dusty cloth in her hand. 'I can see a lot of light in you/and I think that dress looks nice on you.'

11. Stars of the Lid - And Their Refinement of the Decline

When I put this CD on, a grave sense of relief came over me. This is the music I have been looking for, I thought. I said it to you later. But when you do find that music, you know it's a death knell of sorts. Those feelings are rare. And maybe that's why I download so much from blogs, anything that I can. It's the sense of discovery that pervades all walks of life, that nomadic longing. But I have settled down somewhat with music, and whenever I settle down to this record it posits me somewhere else entirely. It is meditative. I am utterly reassured about existence with this music rising and falling against my ear, drifting off and coming back.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Lists: My Top 100 Albums of the 2000s - 31 to 20

30. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - The Letting Go

'My love, my love, my careful love/I only want to lay with you/my love, my love/o! careful love/I found the hard way love is true.'

Sufjan Stevens - Illinoise

'Oooooooooh/history repeats itself.'

28. Yo La Tengo - And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out

'Where'd my mind go?/Out of tune.'

27. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

'After-all that-we've been-throoough/I see you along the way, baby/stillness is the move.'

26. The Decemberists - Castaways and Cutouts

'Grace Cathedral Hill/all wrapped in bones of setting sun/all dust and stone and moribund/I paid 25c to light a little white candle.'

25. Sufjan Stevens - Michigan

'Our Grandpa died in a hospital gown/she didn't seem to care/she smoked in her room and coloured her hair.'

24. Atlas Sound - Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel

'Quarantined and kept/so far away/from my friends'.

23. Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala

'I was slicing up an avocado/when you came up behind me/with your silent brand new sneakers/your reflection I did not see/it was the hottest day in August/we were heading for the sea/for a second my mind started drifting and you put your arms around me/blood sprayed on the kitchen sink/'what's this?' I had time to think/I see the tip of my index finger/my mind is slowly creating a link'.

22. Fleet Foxes - Sun Giant EP

'Days are just drops in the river to be lost/always'.

Deerhunter - Cryptograms

'I saw the curtains/it was the end/when one life is over a new one begins'.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Lists: My Top 100 Albums of the 2000s - 40 to 31

Ok, I said too much last time:

40. The Knife - Deep Cuts

Deep Cuts trades more on wit and irony than any 'The First Cut is the Deepest' deal, with songs about proto-pornos as in 'Handy Man'. The record is likeable because it engages the humorous side of European clubbish techno that seems to be taken so seriously on the face of things by English-speaking ravers. It takes that homoeroticism and pushes it firmly in your ear. But it has to be 'Heartbeats' that makes this very fun album somewhat painful and heartfelt also.

39. LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsystem

It's a complete accident that I like this band. It was Reading in 2005, the Sunday night, alone in the Radio 1 tent. I'd gone initially to see The Futureheads but the schedule had been delayed. This was the first time I heard 'Yeah' (Crass version), a semi religio-disco moment that completely re-wrote my perception of James Murphy and co. The throbbing melody that gobbles 'Yeah' down re-affirms much of my ill-intentions that were probably well-meant in the first place. Sometimes you should just be quiet and have a little dance.

38. Animal Collective - Sung Tongs

This record is whack. Perhaps listening to 'Kids on Holiday' in an airport is a good idea, because the sense of giddiness translates, even if you are on your way back home. Sung Tongs is the infantile goodness of AC, with the rare hints of trauma that seem to guide this band, as on 'Leaf House': 'This house is sad/because he's gone'. That is the song that got me into them, everything else before just seemed, well, peculiar.

37. Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene

This is an underrated record. It's packed full of great melodies and the production is excellent. It's messier than You Forgot It in People, and it doesn't try to be anything other than what it really is - a melodic mess. But, again, any mess including Emily Haines and Feist will always manage to make the roughness pristine and lovely. '7/4 Shoreline' is one of the top songs in Canadian history, and, 'Swimmers'? Sheesh. 'Fire Eye'd Boy', 'Ibi Dreams of Pavement', 'Our Faces Split the Coast in Half'??? GET BORN!!!!1!1!!!1!!!

36. The Shins - Oh, Inverted World

Oh, Inverted World? It's a student's dream record, with songs about bus stops and bookshops. Yes, some of us are happy to get the bus and a little too happy to be in bookshops. Though, really it was Garden State that introduced me to The Shins. I did indeed wish that Natalie Portman had plopped headphones on my head, rather than Zach Braff's. Still, the first few listens to 'New Slang' offer a sensation that only this gullible and sweet-hearted kind of minor music can produce.

35. Alan Braxe & Friends - The Upper Cuts

Ok, so it's 2007 and I'm not embarrassed anymore, and no I don't want a fight. This is elated, euphoric French dance music that is completely welcoming and strangely indiscriminate. Though, you do have to stick with these songs to get their full spunk, like 'Most Wanted'. 'Intro' is Fred Falke at his best, slappin' de bass as only he can, in some studio in Marseille, probably. Let's not forget 'The Music Sounds Better with You', an infinitely playable track that seems to have soundtracked the late '90s as if by the soundbrush of God Herself.

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

Please let's not talk about Jay-Z or Twitter and all that Pitchfork news-barf about Ed Droste talking to some people who don't look like him or listen to the same songs. Veckatimest isn't a fashionable record but for 'Two Weeks' and Victoria Legrand gaining deserved notoriety in what is a stage of pre-Beach House breakthrough, before Teen Dream spaffs gently in the face of unknowing turbo-critics in January. What marks Grizzly Bear out is the slow thrust of fisticuffs as on Yellow House's 'On a Neck, on a Spit' and here with 'While You Wait For the Others'. It's also the New Weird America influences that sees the band wait for a song to hit, ala 'Dory' or 'Cheerleader'. Veckatimest is a very good record, but I'll admit, its charms aren't fully-fledged just yet. And that's a compliment.

33. Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights

For lists that matter this year - i.e. not this one - Turn on the Bright Lights is a three-four gob throb with The Strokes Is This It. It's not been a good past few years for Interpol. Ok, Antics was good, but Our Love to Admire lit few flames, and the band have admitted as much. It seems that everything comes back to their debut full-length, a seminal work. It's a good mixture of reverb-guitar-pain and danceability as on 'Say Hello to the Angels'. It's the bass that undercuts the mastery, with 'The New' written sorely but sweetly on my memory if ever I listen to it. And 'Leif Erikson' tears my tits swiftly off with Paul Banks talking about time that our deceased Leif once had for Paul, always.

Great Lake Swimmers - Great Lake Swimmers

My fellow Great Lake Swimmers chum made me a mix which included a song from an unknown GLS record. I called him immediately to say thanks, Tony Dekker's voice is one that puts me firmly back in the wet Christmas of 2005. When us Brits could use Pandora to discover new music (you can't stop the constant revolution) 'Three Days at Sea (Three Lost Years)' always seemed to show up and punch me in the shoulder. I couldn't find the record in shops, it wasn't on the band's myspace, couldn't find it free anywhere it was only available to buy online. And so, after months of shoulder-pangs, I got hold of it. And, though it's not a circus ride of varying styles, it sticks to exactly what it's good at: washing reverb-swamped vocals (pre-Panda Bear), and faintly disturbing lyrics: 'The man with no skin/they would not let him in/nobody wants to see a beating heart/a lung, or a brain/or anything'. All-American goodness ala Washington Irving.

The Tough Alliance - A New Chance

Pop music, not pop-ular, feels energetic and exciting, new and unfounded. So, not the same retreading of old economic successes/artistic fuck-offs. To listen to 'A New Chance' is a rapturous experience, 'a new romance' indeed. There's an intensely political feel to songs like 'First Class Riot': 'Don't you diet/first class riot.' And the wittiness of this Swedish (best) duo is what makes the politics feel un-political and more unifying, more honest. There is no discrimination here, it's kind of the pacifist's uproar, using a Zizekian but non-alienating sense of humour, the type to dig cynics in the bits. 'Neo Violence' and 'Miami' are both growers, giving A New Chance a sense of effervesence over time. But it's the style of 'Something Special' that lives on: 'You were something special/something real.'

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lists: My Top 100 Albums of the 2000s - 50 to 41

50. Akron/Family - Akron/Family

Folktronica is a misleading term, but then, so is Laptop-Folk. Isn't all Folk lap-related? It's where the guitar sits as you coo, and that coo, it's lap-related. Admit it brother/sister, you're trying to coo a lover into that lap. Ain't no shame in that. Every listen to Akron/Family's self-titled record is a reminder that I don't listen to it enough. The sense of experimentation in styles is finely pronounced, for all its spontaneity, the songs never lose shape entirely. They always keep me enraptured. Is this postmodern? I don't really know how to define postmodernism, but then isn't that what postmodernism is? All that matters about Akron/Family is that at its heart is an honest and likeable voice. There are bleeps and beeps and strings, too.

49. Phosphorescent - Pride

The sound of Pride played late night/early morning is a transcendental experience. 'The Waves at Night' quite literally laps against the walls of the room you're in, the reverb that carries Matthew Houck's voice washes around and back again. But it's 'Wolves' that offers the closest summary of this record, with Houck singing 'Momma there's Wolves in the house/momma I tried to get them out.' It's a song that can transport you into the freezing foreground of a Jack London short story. The record closes with the title track, a pack of Houcks groaning and hollering in the vast, perfectly rendered expanse of Pride's univ

48. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours

And so you have the most addictive album in recent years, 'Lights and Music' is an instant stamp on the unconscious: 'Lights and music, in my mind/Be my baby, one more time'. Those lyrics read like Whigfield, but that sort of layman-esque euphoria is irrelevant with music as good as In Ghost Colours. There are also a number of very good ambient tracks that could be filler nine times out of ten, 'We Fight for Diamonds', 'Voices in Quartz', 'Visions', they all positively glow. The basslines might be the lasting element, the shuddering synth blurts that appear on the final curve of the bass shatter all my inhibition and light up the present.

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

I constantly question how good this album actually is, and the story about Justin Vernon buggering off into a little hut owned by his Dad is really a poor man's Henry David Thoreau - sorry, Justin, but you didn't build your own gaff. But then Vernon didn't do all the talking here, it was mostly British newspapers and magazines who were like 'OMG der is like this new sound with compooterz and like deep folk vocals'. Number 1 record of 2008 it ain't. I think it's fair to say Vernon needs to get some new material out there, and indeed, Blood Bank is very good, and the side-project with Collections of Colonies of Bees, Volcano Choir, proves the man got skill. And so, I do like this record. A lot. But it's more a sign of talents yet to ripen than some kind of God-on-earth solar eclipse. Lump Sum is fucking superb. The early music intro of cathedral-size cooing is exactly what I love about this artist. And then there's a bloody 4/4, 808 kick to take things off! A very good record, but a first draft on something greater and yet to arrive.

46. Feist - The Reminder

This, British popular media, is a pop record, ok? So stop throwing around the term as if it was some sort of reneged evil-doer who actually deserves a second chance because really it's actually kind of an economic resurgent. Feist didn't deserve that, she's so above it, this woman is like my best friend. Have you seen her on Sesame Street? How could there be any sort of social unrest in North America with Sesame Street and Feist appearing in the same room at least once. '1-2-3-4' is Bresson-esque simplicity that outlives its dick-pod advertisement. There are flashes of REM, Neil Young, the Beatles, with songs like 'Past in Present' and 'I Feel it All' ringing like classic folk-rockers. The Reminder has everything going for it.

45. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

I'll admit that listening to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah recently didn't offer the same thrills as once before. But skipping to track 5 - Details of the War - is a heady experience. It reminds me of lying on the floor, stretching out my arms and despairing. That chugging song is temperamental hurt in itself, it feels really sorry for itself. But the toms that patter and climb beneath the scrambling guitars always seem to lift the song back to its feet, however dour that strange voice is. 'It's over/I have seen it all before.' Oh, my. Sometimes it's nice to lie on the floor and sulk.

44. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

I prefer the slow churn of Feels, it's true, but Merriweather Post Pavilion is a great record. It's not exactly the breakthrough that some have called it. The videos for the songs, particularly 'In the Flowers', underline Animal Collective's intention to obscure rather than entertain. I think they should be a applauded for that. This is an intensely economic game they're involved in - hence adverts for MPP's sickening artwork on London's tube network - but they manage to reject it and evoke something above the banal thrum of the capitalist music ditch. Noah Lennox's 'My Girls' is one of the great songs of my lifetime, the hellenistic philosophers would be fucking proud. Every time I listen to that song, life - this mundane, modern thing - takes on an importance that belies its visual appearance. Yes, New Weird America has given me reason to believe. Noah Lennox (aye-kay-aye Panda Bear) is possibly the great auteur of popularish-music today. He even has himself an understudy in Bradford Cox who learns from him, borrows him, and creates in his image.

43. Marissa Nadler - Songs III: Bird on the Water

2007 was a great year for music, ushered in (nearly) by Joanna Newsom in December 2006 with Ys, and solidified in the early months with records from LCD Soundsystem and that debut from Panda Bear. But one record which went *cliche alert* 'largely-unnoticed' is Marissa Nadler's Songs III: Bird on the Water. The first track is a killer, 'Diamond Heart' is a terrifying song about the death of Marissa's lover's father, 'Your father died, some months ago/and we scattered his ashes, in-the-snow'. 'Oh, my lonely diamond heart, that misses you so well/Oh, my lonely diamond heart/that misses you/oh well.' That 'Oh' is a typically romantic start to a sentence, and Nadler's lyrics have something of Petrarch about them, they capture a sense of longing 'so well'.

42. The Microphones - The Glow Pt. 2

This record remains an unknown quanitity of sorts, for me. But listening to the melody that erupts in 'I Want Wind to Blow', the opener to The Glow Pt. 2, is like being endowed with some kind of all-encompassing wisdom. The clanging guitars never leave you, I would love to type how it sounds 'dun dun dun-dun, dun dun dun-dun duhhh', but that's not it. What about the distant field recording of a boat that appears like a leitmotif, 'bwooooooooarh', towards the end of the record, and eventually sees it out. This record is what America sounds like to me, a place I've never been to. I idealise Anacortes, Washington, all a part of Phil Elvrum's oeuvre, probably the very thing that marks him out as a great musician, photographer and drawererer. I remember eavesdropping on my friend Graeme handing a copy of this record to someone about 4 years ago now. 'I assure you, you'll love this,' he said to the recipient of the disc. And since then, I knew that I would too.

41. The National - Boxer

I heartily enjoy Dark was the Night, but the myspace-esque friendship blurting of The National's bros Dressner kind of grates. Out of the context of Boxer, Matt Berninger's voice sounds way off. That drawl and growl just isn't fit for foil alongside Justin Vernon, the textures don't mesh. The portentousness is distracting. But, on Boxer, it's wonderful. Maybe it's the sense of humour Berninger has in singing about 'baking apples, making pies' and lemonade and that. 'Fake Empire' too, it has a sort of personal decay about it that isn't too Sn** Pat*** or U*. Because, let's face it, I find that sort of stadium rock horsecarp sickening. This blurb has indeed been a moan about The National in other spheres, but then who could be proud about appearing in the narrative intro for Hollyoaks. Can you put narrative and Hollyoaks in the same sentence? The fact is that the proliferation of good music into shit consumerist nonsense is saddening and it does have an effect on the original product itself. But what Boxer was to me, pre-H****oaks, means more than the pain of hearing a good song in bad company.