"Sleep Well Beast" and "The system only dreams in total darkness"
Those are the phrases included in the grainy news-style footage released by the National on their Facebook page today, with swirling beats in the background. That can really only mean one thing: new National tunes are on their way.
So, you're probably asking - what have the National been up to? You probably know the answer without realizing it, as the National are a particular band that has members so widely involved in the music industry that they're always around somehow. Lead vocalist Matt Berninger has a slew of side projects he's been impressing us with, like EL VY, a collaboration with Menomena's Brent Knopf. The Dessner brothers, Aaron and Bryce, have worked on a variety of collaborations, including co-composing a score for the SXSW award-winning film Transpecos. Boston Calling, the festival Aaron co-curates, has been booming year after year with stacked lineups. The National even debuted a new song called "Roman Candle" (and later referred to as "Checking Out") at a show in Los Angeles' Troubadour.
As a whole, though, the National in it's entirety have been somewhat quiet. With some festival appearances last year, such as a variety of Australia's best and the first annual Panorama Festival here in our very own New York City, there was little known about their ongoing recording process - and when we'd get to hear it.
2013 brought us Grammy-nominated Trouble Will Find Me, amongst other indie masterpieces (The Strokes' Comedown Machine, Vampire Weekend's Modern Vampires). It was a good year for that sort of guitar music that's been in rapid decline ever since. I still consider to be Trouble Will Find Me the crowning gem, though, and there hasn't been a time where I don't wallow in sadness every time I'm reminded of it. With their last release, the National seemed to have tapped into a special audience - the type who hang on to Berninger's every cryptic word, as if he were the preacher and us the choir.
That's why the video posted today on the band's Facebook page, shrouded in grain and empty windows and an oh-so-exciting moody guitar rhythm, comes as no surprise to us. The phrases that scroll across a chyron seem to comment on the media's current limbo state in our heated political climate, something the band - and especially Berninger himself - have never shyed away from commenting on. EL VY even wrote a song for the anti-45th president program, "30 Days, 30 Songs." The band also recently released a song called "Turtleneck" during an inauguration protest concert at Washington, D.C. last January.
In an interview on the "Rolling Stone Music Now" podcast with writer Dave Eggers and Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker, as reported on Pitchfork, Berninger sat down to update the status of a new National record:
It's about marriage, and it's about marriages falling apart. I'm happily married, and but it's hard, marriage is hard and my wife and I are writing the lyrics together about our own struggles and it's difficult to write, but it's saving my marriage. Not saving my marriage, my marriage is healthy, but it's good for everything! And so it's gonna be a strange record, and I'm crazy about it.
He also added, "It's really dark and there aren't any dick references on the new National record." Seems good enough to me.