Every year we talk about doing a “Favorite Songs” list, but we never do because it always ends up being so huge and unwieldy (we like a lot of music, alright?!). But this year we decided to just break down and do it, only here’s the catch: these are our Favorite Songs that DIDN’T appear on any of our Favorite Albums. So no matter how amazing “Cold War” or “Ambling Alp” or “We Used To Wait” might be, they won’t be on this list. Instead this gives us a chance to highlight a bunch of other fantastic artists who rocked our cubicle this year!
They’re in alphabetical order, and without any blurbs, so all you have to do is listen! Enjoy!
The first post I ever wrote for this site was about The National. Thatâ€™s funny because I always seem to have trouble writing about them â€“ I feel like no matter what I say I never quite do them justice. I think itâ€™s a symptom of how much I actually love this band, and after seeing them again on Saturday Iâ€™m once again feeling a little inadequate at relaying the experience. Iâ€™ll do my best, but just know: it was really good.
Owen Pallett opened, and though I havenâ€™t listened to him much, he completely blew me away. He used loop pedals to weave complex musical tapestries out of just his keyboard and violin, with added flourishes provided by his drummer/bassist/guitarist/whistler, Thomas Gill – creating a lush and intimate sound that was completely entrancing. He performed a slew of songs from this yearâ€™s Heartland (which Iâ€™ve promptly repented for ignoring so long â€“ these songs are beautiful), and its accompanying EP, A Swedish Love Story. In fact, two of my favorite songs of the whole night were off that EP â€“ â€œScandal At The Parkadeâ€ and â€œA Man With No Anklesâ€. Take a listen:
After Pallettâ€™s fantastic set, The National entered in darkness and opened with â€œRunawayâ€, lit only by the stage backlighting. It was a haunting and gorgeous rendition of the subtle High Violet standout â€“ a perfect introduction to what would be a rock solid show. They immediately picked it up after â€œRunawayâ€™sâ€ languid pace with the more traditionally rocking â€œAnyoneâ€™s Ghostâ€ and â€œMistaken for Strangersâ€, and then barreled right into the near-perfect â€œBloodbuzz Ohio.â€ I was expecting them to save that song for later in the set, but no, they pulled it out right at the beginning â€“ and I knew right then that this was going to be a fantastic set. When your catalogâ€™s so strong you can put a song like â€œOhioâ€ right up front and know the rest of your set can live up to it, youâ€™re going to have an amazing live show. And they did.
The band was supported by the trusty Padma Newsome on keys and strings, plus a mini- horn section that filled out the sound laid down by the Devendorf and Dessner brothersâ€™ lush instrumentation, especially remarkable on numbers like â€œSqualor Victoriaâ€ and â€œFake Empire.” Frankly, the band has never sounded better. Matt Berninger was in great spirits, making jokes with the Dessners about meeting Mary Poppins backstage, and how much of a diva she was (Mary Poppins was also playing at the Murat that night). Their stage banter was actually endearing: the Dessners describing how they tried to talk Matt out of singing about eating peopleâ€™s brains on â€œConversation 16â€, Matt explaining how thatâ€™s not metaphorical, Aaron explaining how none of them really know what theyâ€™re saying at the end of â€œSecret Meeting.â€ Iâ€™m not positive, but Iâ€™m pretty sure Matt said that â€œAfraid of Everyoneâ€ was â€œabout the newsâ€, which completely opened up that song in a new way for me. They played some of my all-time favorites like â€œSlow Showâ€, â€œApartment Storyâ€ and â€œGreen Glovesâ€ along with new classics like â€œSorrowâ€ and â€œEnglandâ€ (which somehow sounded even lovelier live). A four-song encore included a heart-stopping rendition of â€œMr. Novemberâ€ with Matt jumping down and wandering throughout the sold-out crowd as they fist-pumped along to its endlessly cathartic chorus, and they ended the night with a gorgeous take of â€œTerrible Love.â€
So yeah. The show was really good. Click on for pictures and setlists.