Posts Tagged ‘The National’

It’s pretty certain most us would like to put 2017 behind us, and move forward to the (hopefully) better and brighter 2018. Musically speaking, 2017 was a decent year, so let’s celebrate all it had to offer (Note: once again, these are solely my opinions, and as usual I didn’t listen to every single record that was released this year.)

Best Rap Album: DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar

I’ll be honest: I didn’t fully get the “hype” behind Lamar until this album came out. It wins because Lamar’s lyrics are smart, honest, and he’s actually saying something. Plus, the album as a whole is a solid mix of rhymes, dope beats, and a whole lotta love.

Guiltiest Pleasure: “There’s Nothin’ Holding Me Back” by Shawn Mendes

He’s so plain and vanilla; boring and unoriginal. Yet this songs makes me dance, and I just can’t help it.

Worst Collaboration: “Something Just Like This” Coldplay + The Chainsmokers

Coldplay has been dead to me for some time now. The minute they shed everything that made them them, I cut the cord. The Chainsmokers were never on my good list, because there’s nothing good about them. This is a musical abomination on so many levels.

Best Collaboration – “I Know You” by Craig David feat. Bastille

David’s smooth vocals against Bastille’s rock operatic ones; David’s R&B sound, with Bastille’s rock-electronic vibe. Mash it all together and what you get is beautiful music. Not to mention: Craig David is back!

Best Latin Collaboration: “Mi Gente” by J Balvin, Willy William feat. Beyoncé

The original of this infectious track has over 1.4 billion views on YouTube alone. Add Queen Bey into the mix and it’s completely unstoppable.

Most Surprising Track: “Rockstar” Post Malone feat. 21 Savage

At first glance, Post Malone leaves nothing to be desired. That should teach me to judge a book by its cover. Although he screams drug addict trailer trash, with nasty grills and hair that hasn’t been washed in months, his music is actually pretty good (I can’t believe I just admitted that.)

Most Disappointing Track: “Walk on Water” by Eminem feat. Beyoncé

This wins this category because in spite of its huge potential, it falls flat. The content of Em’s flow is pretty good, but his delivery is lazy, slurry and sounds a little too much like Macklemore (sorry Em!) Bey’s chorus makes the track listenable, but otherwise, it’s a bit of a snoozefest (I can’t believe I just admitted that.)

Best Indie Track: “Nobody Else Will be There” by The National

It’s moody, dark, and puts your stomach in knots. Everything a National song is supposed to be.

Worst Indie Track: “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man

It’s so catchy that it very quickly becomes too catchy, which automatically makes it intolerable. It’s just trying too hard.

Best Club Track: “Unforgettable” by French Montana feat. Swae Lee

I dare you not to bust a move right now.

Best R&B Track: “Skywalker” by Miguel feat. Travis Scott

One of the best tracks off Miguel’s release War & Leisure, it shows off his velvety vocals, a sick beat, and also appeared on HBO’s smash hit Insecure.

Best New Artist: Amy Shark

Delicate vocals full of vulnerability and soul, Australia’s Shark is a singer-songwriter who has managed to dominate radio waves, in spite of the fact she’s only ever released a 6-track EP. Look out for her in 2018.

Worst New Artist: Cardi B

There are just so many things about Cardi B that, despite my best efforts, I just can’t.

Best Track from an Ex-Member of One Direction: “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles

This track wins mostly because the sound is just more to my liking. A little more rock ‘n roll, a little edgier. Niall’s offering was too cheesy boy band pop; Zayn’s was too over the top and all over the place.

Worst Track from an Ex-Member of One Direction: “Strip That Down” by Liam Payne feat. Quavo 

Payne just isn’t vocally strong enough to be a solo act. Everything about this screams someone who’s a little too keen on changing his image. Newsflash, Liam: it’s not working.

Best TV Soundtrack: Big Little Lies

It has everything from Leon Bridges, to Alabama Shakes, to Martha Wainwright. Oh, and this killer theme song.

Best Movie Soundtrack: Atomic Blonde

Question: what’s better than watching a stiletto-wearing Charlize Theron kick ass to the sound of new wave/rock/pop/punk 80s music? Answer: nothing.

Best Canadian Album: Everything Now by Arcade Fire

I will agree that Arcade Fire is definitely an acquired taste. But once you get into them, there’s something unique about the way they make music and put it all together, that sets them apart. This wasn’t their best album, but a solid one nonetheless.

Best Comeback: N.E.R.D.

It’s been 7 years since N.E.R.D. released an album, and 16 years (!) since their anthem “Rock Star” was released. This year’s No One Ever Really Dies is such a force, both musically and lyrically; there’s nothing out there that sounds anything like it. Bravo.

Worst Comeback: Theory of  a Deadman

Technically ToaD put out an album in 2014, but let’s be honest – it’s been at least 12 years since they released anything anyone heard, and, frankly, it should’ve stayed that way. They are, and have always been a poor man’s Nickelback.

Most Underrated Artist: Billie Eilish

Ms. Eilish released her debut EP, Don’t Smile at Me, this summer. At only 15 years old (!), she blew me away.

Most Overrated Artist: Ed Sheeran

Look, I know it’s easy to come down hard on Sheeran, but it’s just as hard not to. His music is formulaic, his vocals aren’t anything special, and he’s a ginger. Somehow, he’s heralded as the best of the best, and his smugness exacerbates with each accolade. I will never understand his appeal.

Best Cover Song: “Bitter Sweet Symphony” by London Grammar 

The key to a good cover song is to maintain the integrity of the song, while putting your own spin on it. London Grammar has done exactly this with The Verve’s 1997 classic. Grammar stripped it down, and made it more haunting. As far as covers go, it’s perfection. Not to mention, lead singer Hannah Reid kills it on vocals.

Worst Cover Song: “You Get What You Give” by Felix Cartal

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you’re going to cover a song, make sure it’s a song that’s worth covering. The New Radicals’ original from 1998, wasn’t a good song. It was mediocre at best. Then completely changing the sound from pop/rock to techno is an even worse decision.

Best Live Show: The xx

I’ve been to my fair share of concerts, and I can say without a doubt, The xx came out on top this year. Their music builds up so subtly, until it takes over and pulls at every emotion inside your body. The only option you have left is to dance off the emotional wreck you have become – it’s the best way to heal.

Worst Album: Reputation by Taylor Swift

Swift needs to take a chill pill. Her attempt at shedding her “good girl” image is so predictable, and so not working. No one believes her to be this villainous vixen (except maybe her millions of fans.) She tried to throw shade at the Kardashian-Wests, her music gets worse and worse with every album, and she needs to stop with the red lipstick.

Album of the Year: I See You by The xx

This album has the ability to make you feel things you never thought you could feel; it’ll make you hear things in ways you never thought possible; it’ll break your heart, sweep you off your feet; it’ll understand you like your best friend, and hurt you like your past love. All while making it impossible to resist dancing like no one’s watching.

Worst Song: “Take a Knee…My Ass” by Neal McCoy

This requires zero explanation.

Song of the Year: “Performance” by The xx

The first time I heard this song, it permeated through my skin, invaded my soul and sunk my heart; time actually stopped. The story it tells is one that resonates with us all, and its honesty is so real, it hurts. In a good way.


Brooklyn-based The National has been around since all the way back in 2001, but I didn’t quite jump on their bandwagon until 2007’s epic Boxer. I can’t remember if it was a friend or boy of interest at the time that swayed me on to them, but whoever it was, I am forever indebted; I’ve been enamored ever since. Matt Berninger is on vocals; brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner on guitar; brothers Scott and Bryan Devendorf, on guitar and drums, respectively. If you haven’t done so yet, here’s why should give them a shot.


The sound: the best way to describe The National’s sound, is emotive. They’re able to masterfully evoke the sentiments of each track, pulling you deeper and deeper into their thoughtful realm. They don’t commit to any one sound exclusively, but rather to several equally. They sometimes slam the drums, and crush guitar riffs, while Berninger loses his mind on the mic. Other times, the noise is faint, the vocals barely audible, but everything is perfectly timed, building up and up with each line. You never know exactly what you’re going to get with them, which urges you to keep exploring.


The lyrics: there’s no hiding that The National puts out some of the most thought-provoking words out there, and with each listen, you gain more insight into their minds. They’re executed so perfectly, so delicately, ensuring every lyric has its moment to shine. Each time, their soft claws sink deeper and deeper into your soul until there’s nowhere else for them to go. You get hooked, addicted to that intense feeling. They get you to exercise that part of your brain your day-to-day life ignores. That part of your brain, that’s full of questions; that’s confused about why things are the way they are, that is full of all your vulnerabilities. They make you wonder. As heavy as that sounds, it’s also incredibly liberating.


The vocals: Berninger’s voice can be deep, quiet and heavy, creating a sound that reverberates in your ears, long after the music has stopped. It’s the voice we all use when we talk to ourselves, while trying to sort out everything in our minds. Berninger’s voice can also be louder and more musical, full of emotion and passion, and all the reactions to what he’s feeling. It’s the voice we use when we’re done thinking about everything and just need to let it all out. This back and forth between vocal stylings makes the lyrics and the songs all that much more relatable because we’ve all been there, we’ve all felt that.


The albums: when you listen to any of The National’s albums, you really have to listen to them. The albums reveal themselves more and more with each repetition, and the only way to truly understand any of them, is to pay attention. Their live shows take all of this, and heighten it even further. No song is like any other, no album is like any other. Go on their journey with them: they’ll lift you up, bring you down, and make you feel all over, but they’ll never let you go. Once you get them, you won’t be able to forget them.

We’ve all been there, it’s happened to each and everyone of us: the good old heartbreak. Whether from a significant other, a family member, even a friend, we’ve all been down the treacherous self-loathing path of why is this happening to me? I’m the misery-likes-company type of person, so when I’m down in the dumps, I need some friends to help me feel it all; here are some I’ve found along the way. (Note: in an attempt to broaden horizons, I’ve distanced this list from well-known artists, so don’t freak out.)

10. “I Hope Your Heart Runs Empty” by Neverending White Lights feat. Scott Anderson

Okay, so this track dates quite a few years back, but still has a way of getting under my skin. NWL is actually a one-man band of Daniel Victor who writes, performs and produces all his music, then gets quasi-known singers to provide vocals. In this case it’s Canadian punk band Finger Eleven’s lead singer. He has such a harrowing voice, it just crawls all over you.

Best line: “Stole a look away from your eyes, stole a look and finally paid your price”

9. “Cup of Coffee” by Garbage

Although it’s one of the lesser known tracks from this fantastic rock band, it’s also one of their most moving ones. It’s frustrating and angering, and so disheartening. Shirley Manson’s voice is heavy but tender; the music is both harsh and eerie. When someone ends things with you and you feel blindsided, this is probably how you’d feel.

Best line: “It took a cup of coffee, to prove that you don’t love me”

8. “Run” by Snow Patrol

From the initial guitar hook, to the aura of defeated in the vocals, this track had me instantly. This band has put out a lot of great tracks, but this one just has something special about it. It’s tragic, but it’s also heartfelt. It’s about two people who need to separate (geographically, it seems) and are having a tough time with it. Who can’t relate to what’s happening here?

Best line: “To think I might not see those eyes, it makes it so hard not to cry”

7. “Walk Away” by Ben Harper

The classic tale of knowing when to let go, even if you’re not ready to. If a relationship has ended due to circumstances or timing (and not because the love has faded), this is your jam. Harper has this insanely telling voice, full of so much expression and each and every intonation possible. His words cut deep, hit hard and make you want to cry all over. It’s a true lesson in doing the right thing, even though it hurts. A lot.

Best line: “But I would rather be locked to you, than live in this pain and misery”

6. “Personal” by Stars

One of the best ways to truly depict troubles in a relationship is to use both male and female vocals. You get to see/hear both sides of the story and feel even more immersed in the emotions. This track actually makes you feel like you got punched in the gut. Girl likes online version of boy, boy likes online version of girl. They decide to meet in person, but one of them decides they don’t like the real-version of the other. It shatters your heart in so many ways, addressing all our insecurities and how we think others see us.

Best line: “I was sure you saw me, but it wasn’t meant to be”


5. “Lost & Found” by Lianne La Havas

Lianne La Havas needs more credit: she’s phenomenal. She’s part R&B, part singer-songwriter and all soul. There’s a bit of a naiveté and innocence to her voice, which makes her sound even more relevant. It’s like she’s experiencing all these things for the first time. She’s exploring the world and finding out that sometimes it’s painful and it sucks and it’s confusing. This tune is part introspection, part crushing, and all therapy.

Best line: “You broke me and taught me to truly hate myself”

4. “Angels” by The xx

The xx are one of those bands that understand music and sounds so incredibly well, they know exactly how to bring all elements of a song – instruments, vocals, production – in perfect harmony, so that the track is felt from every direction. When Romy isn’t singing, the instruments and music do it for her, taking the listener on a continuous journey. This track is all about finding that elusive connection we all seek, and how overwhelming it can be we it’s found.

Best line: “You move through the room, like breathing was easy”

3. “9 Crimes” by Damien Rice

Damien Rice has such a delicately refined voice, able to hit all the lows and reach all the highs. What makes this track so engaging is it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on. It’s dramatic and heavy and ominous. There seems to be some sort of adulterous situation going on, there are guns involved, and the male and female vocals both talk about bad timing and being horrible people. I have yet to identify 9 actual crimes, but man, this is a good one.

Best line: “Leave me out with the waste, this is not what I do”

2. “About Today” by The National 

I’ve written/spoken about this track time and time again. It should be a staple go-to track in everyone’s life. It’s one of the most real and honest tracks about the dissolution of a relationship. It’s awkward and tense, and you feel the constant knot in your stomach growing and growing, until you find yourself audibly sighing, because you know where this is headed. It even sounds like the violins are crying. If you don’t find yourself crawled up in the a fetal position by the end of it, you have no soul.

Best line: “You just walked away, and I just watched you; what could I say?”

1. “Poison & Wine” by The Civil Wars

This song pulls at each and every heart string one by one, and letting every single one echo for what seems like eons. It’s so full of pain and hurt and despair. It’s melancholic but folky, and sung with so much precision and sadness, you can’t help but feel all the dread in the air. This couple is on 2 completely different pages, and take turns expressing their inner monologue. Every line is full of contradictions, just like so many relationships. Ugh.

Best line: “I don’t have a choice but I’d still choose you”