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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
The National
Cherry Tree EP
Brassland Records

Rating: 8.5/10 ?


October 1, 2004
Brace yourself for a surprise, for some very gallant statements follow this sentence.

There is a band from New York that isn't playing trashy garage rock, slick Manchester-influenced new wave, or a combination of both. That band's name is The National, and they are the best rock band in America.

Stop.

Before you correct me, consider the evidence: seven tracks (five new songs, one live recording and a Padma Newsome cover) that comprise The National's third release, the Cherry Tree EP.

"Alone", with its manifold meanings, is the one word that The National evokes with each release. Whispered by way of a deep, raspy, whiskey-breathed voice, Matt Berninger's poetry tells stories of outcasts and lonely-hearts, lost in the cracks America's framework. Berninger's words are paired with instrumentation that leaves The National alone among its peers. No one in America is able to produce the same level of intensity in a quiet ballad, such as "All Dolled-Up in Stripes," as a loud rocker, such as the live version of "Murder Me, Rachael," a song that originally appeared on 2003's Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers.

"Tonight/you just close your eyes/ and I just watch you slip away/ How close am I to losing you?" whispers Berninger on "About Today," as the kick drum beats at the pace of a heart and a fiddle plays a background melody that falls from highs to lows like a tear from a long face. The moments that follow Berninger's question are truly breathtaking; the drumming stops, and you feel as if your heart may as well, too.

While Berninger's beaten voice is a highlight of each track, one can't help but notice how tight the instrumentation is on each track, which comes as no surprise, considering the fact that two sets of brothers, Scott (guitar) and Bryan Devendorf (drums) and Bryce (guitar) and Aaron (bass) Dessner, write the music.

On "All the Wine," an electric guitar with a chorus effect and an acoustic guitar float behind a two-note pattern before all guitars erupt into a down-strummed climax before breaking down, allowing for Dessner's bass and Devendorf's drums to direct the listener out of the song. It's orchestrated but not mechanical, raw but well-produced. In short, precisely what one would expect from an eminent American rock band.

The EP's powerful title track is one of the best songs The National has recorded and, by no coincidence, always the most memorable song in their live set. What begins as a finger-picked folk song swells to a level of rock that the record can bear.

As Berninger repeats, "Don't look at me/ I'm only breathing/ don't look at me/ I'm indiscreet," one develops a feeling of anxiety, for the composure in Berninger's voice cannot last and the calmness of the music in the background will break at any moment. The execution of the song is flawless.

Never before has a record made me so satisfied to have chosen the life I have, one that places music before sports, film, television, school dances, finals, bro's, ho's, careers, etc. Such a realization is not without its pitfalls, though, for only a record like this one could also remind me of the lonesomeness that such a life bestows its chooser.

Reviewed by Brian Sutherland
The last we heard, Brian Sutherland lived in Chicago. He\'s a friend of Sarah Peters. That is about all we know about him.

See other reviews by Brian Sutherland

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