Owen Pallett

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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!

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The first post I ever wrote for this site was about The National. That’s funny because I always seem to have trouble writing about them – I feel like no matter what I say I never quite do them justice. I think it’s a symptom of how much I actually love this band, and after seeing them again on Saturday I’m once again feeling a little inadequate at relaying the experience. I’ll do my best, but just know: it was really good.

Owen Pallett opened, and though I haven’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 year’s Heartland (which I’ve promptly repented for ignoring so long – 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 – “Scandal At The Parkade” and “A Man With No Ankles”. Take a listen:

mp3: Owen Pallett – A Man With No Ankles
from the EP A Swedish Love Story (buy it here)

After Pallett’s fantastic set, The National entered in darkness and opened with “Runaway”, lit only by the stage backlighting. It was a haunting and gorgeous rendition of the subtle High Violet standout – a perfect introduction to what would be a rock solid show. They immediately picked it up after “Runaway’s” languid pace with the more traditionally rocking “Anyone’s Ghost” and “Mistaken for Strangers”, and then barreled right into the near-perfect “Bloodbuzz Ohio.” I was expecting them to save that song for later in the set, but no, they pulled it out right at the beginning – and I knew right then that this was going to be a fantastic set. When your catalog’s so strong you can put a song like “Ohio” right up front and know the rest of your set can live up to it, you’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 brothers’ lush instrumentation, especially remarkable on numbers like “Squalor Victoria” and “Fake 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 people’s brains on “Conversation 16”, Matt explaining how that’s not metaphorical, Aaron explaining how none of them really know what they’re saying at the end of “Secret Meeting.” I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure Matt said that “Afraid of Everyone” was “about the news”, which completely opened up that song in a new way for me. They played some of my all-time favorites like “Slow Show”, “Apartment Story” and “Green Gloves” along with new classics like “Sorrow” and “England” (which somehow sounded even lovelier live). A four-song encore included a heart-stopping rendition of “Mr. November” 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 “Terrible Love.”

So yeah. The show was really good. Click on for pictures and setlists.

mp3: The National – Runaway
from the album High Violet (buy it here)

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