[United States] : Concord Records, 2020.
Format: Music CD
Description: 1 sound disc : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
Following the release of the National's Grammy-winning album Sleep Well Beast in 2017, in addition to formulating Sleep Well Beast offshoot I Am Easy to Find (2019), singer Matt Berninger worked on a handful of one-off tracks with artists like Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker, and he started sending prior collaborator Booker T. Jones ideas for a set of covers. Berninger mixed in an original song or two along the way and, with Jones' encouragement, eventually focused on working up more originals, setting the covers aside. (Two of them, the Cure's "In Between Days" and Mercury Rev's "Holes," were included on fundraising compilations earlier in 2020.) The resulting, Jones-produced Serpentine Prison is an intimate, ruminative solo debut not out of line with the more downcast output of his band. Far from a single-handed effort, he's joined on the album by over a dozen guests, including National bassist Scott Devendorf, his El VY bandmate Brent Knopf, the Walkmen's Walter Martin, and Andrew Bird, the latter three of whom fill multiple roles on the recording. Famed Bowie bassist Gail Ann Dorsey (also of I Am Easy to Find) is a featured vocalist on "Silver Springs," a song inspired by the waves of artists that leave home for the promise of the big city ("They'll never understand you anyway in Silver Springs"). It opens with a slinky, melodic guitar line, then skeletal rhythm guitar and hand drums before Berninger enters with a talk-singing plea. The track includes the line "Don't suck, don't die," which he lifted from Kristin Hersh's 2015 book about her friendship with the late Vic Chestnutt -- an example of a pact broken. The somber mood is maintained on songs about breakups ("One More Second"), depression ("Oh Dearie"), and isolation ("Take Me Out of Town"), with arrangements that seem spare even when they merge piano, varied guitars, drums, strings, and horns, as on the strained "Take Me Out of Town." The emotional heart of the track list is "Loved So Little," a nearly monotone, poem-like entry set to humming organ and spacious rhythm guitar until the arrangement gradually expands, inviting in bluesy harmonica among other instruments. Taken together, it's a sequestered, rainy Sunday type of album with flawed, world-weary vocal performances that are laid bare by such impressionistic accompaniment. ~ Marcy Donelson
Contents: My eyes are T-shirts (02:40) Distant axis (04:25) One more second (05:22) Loved so little (04:55) Silver springs (03:53) Oh dearie (03:16) Take me out of town (04:11) Collar of your shirt (05:14) All for nothing (03:05) Serpentine prison (04:32).
|Call Number||Location||Shelf Location||Status|
|Main (Downtown)||Music CD||Just Ordered|