I was introduced to The National two years ago through Game of Thrones. Singer Matt Berninger contributed a terrific version of “The Rains of Castamere” for the second season episode “Blackwater.” A year later, I spun their latest record Trouble Will Find Me for the first time on my way through Oregon. I only listened to it once in maybe five months afterward.
For some reason, by the time the middle of 2014 rolled around, I was listening to the album probably twice a week; at the very least, one song off of it a day.
And half of the time, it was this song:
Between the baritone vocals (which make it easier for me to sing along with), the simple piano and steady rumbling bass, a slow crescendo, and a chord progression with several twists and modulations, I’ve found a recipe for addictive listening.
Not only that, it features not one, but two distinct occurrences of one of my favorite progressions: v, IV, I. It’s similar to this one, except it ends on a major chord. Here it’s used at both ends of the chorus, starting with B♭m – A♭ – E♭/G – B♭/F, and finishing with Fm – E♭ – B♭. Note the use of both major and minor B♭ chords. There’s something about shifting intervals like that that resonates with me.
At the conclusion of “Humiliation” I can’t help but follow up with the next track in the listing:
I feel like I lived this song, at least a little bit. A few weeks ago, when I really looked at the lyrics and their meaning, I thought I might have ruined the entire album for myself. It’s weird, I have a few albums that are hard (sometimes nearly impossible) to listen to because of the memories associated with them. I’ve been playing this one nearly nonstop since May. Whoops.
It’s okay though. Like I said, I’ve only lived part of this song. The rest didn’t happen, and I hope it doesn’t… because it’s damn fun to play on the piano! It runs through the same four chords for the most part (Bm – E – A – D) to which I try to add my own flourishes, but it gets really fun when the outro switches things up slightly (A – E – Bm – D) and adds a little more power.
And yes, I sometimes sing along to “Pink Rabbits” too.
The National has been my jam for the better part of this year. I’ve gotten very attached to Trouble Will Find Me in the past few weeks. Now I’ve just gotta dig into the rest of their discography and do the same.