Playlist

Week on Week: The VICE India Mixtape

A song for each day of the week, throwing in a mix of new releases and some #throwbacks too—everything from homegrown hip-hop to Bollywood (uh-no?) and K-pop—we gotchyu.
May 17, 2019, 9:46am
Week on Week: The VICE India Mixtape
Image: Courtesy of The National

Attempting to keep up with new releases is exhausting. And the never-ending quest to discover an act before they hit >1000 plays on Bandcamp is all but rewarding. Having given up full-time music writing a little while ago, more often than not, I find myself feeling a mix of FOMO and IDGAF about new, local music while compiling my Spotify playlists. With this feature, we (that is I) aim to put together a weekly mixtape—without being (a) judgemental asshole(s).

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On this glorious, blessed day, my all-time top-3 band, The National, have dropped a new album, entitled I Am Easy To Find (watch the film here). What makes it truly special—outside of it just being new music from Ohio-rooted, now all-over-the-world quintet—is the number of songs, contributors and the pace at which this has dropped since Sleep Well Beast (SWB), their previous offering, under two years from their last album!

While the band made their sonic explorations quite evident on SWB, premature evaluations suggest that the band are wandering into a blend of familiar and untapped territory, both for themselves and the fans alike on this record. If initial thoughts are anything to go by, I Am Easy To Find is a slow-burner, and with its sprawling 16-song run time that goes over an hour, and has something for early loyalists, and new converts from that 2018 Grammy win.

I’ve rounded up a mix of fellow Indian nerds and fans of the band, and peeps I’ve shared memories to songs with, had passionate conversations with and of course, the kind contributions from Christoper Hooton and David Rapson, of 'Coffee & Flowers', an entire podcast dedicated to the Boxer, the band’s 2007 offering.

Here goes.

"Tall Saint"

“One of The National’s guitarists, Bryce, recently told us how songs that the band really like at the outset of an album recording weirdly have a habit of ultimately not making it onto the record. I can only assume this is what happened to “Tall Saint”, which didn’t make the cut for Boxer (appearing on the subsequent Virginia EP) but is one of my all-time favourites.

This song has red wine all down its shirt. It’s a boozy, end-of-the-evening anthem, the alienated narrator slow-dancing around a ballroom as the staff whip off the tablecloths and turn the chairs up for the night. How often I’ve pleaded for the “tall saint” to “stay behind me” during a shaky period, though I have no idea who or what they are.”
—Christopher Hooton, human man and co-host of 'Coffee & Flowers' podcast

“England”

“In my opinion, this is the definitive song of The National’s glistening back catalogue. The transformative power within these 5 minutes and 40 seconds should be under investigation from the World Health Organisation.

The opening line may well be the best definition we have of ‘existential emotional anguish’ (“Someone send a runner through this weather that I’m under for the feeling that I lost today…”) and yet, as the track fades out, we’re a million miles from anguish: anyone with a beating heart will be steeled; eyes to the wind, ready to go again. The pounding drums; the orchestral swells; the brass flourishes… and an outro to slam tequila to. This is The National.”
—David Rapson, human man and co-host of 'Coffee & Flowers' podcast

“Empire Line”

“While listening to any album, I usually go through a phase of liking and obsessing over one or two songs and then growing to listen to a few more, and listening to just those for a few days. This process lasted months with Sleep Well Beast and the song that I've still not moved on from is "Empire Line". Especially the drum parts, like with most songs by The National, and the rousing, momentous arc it achieves as the song moves forward. This album is special for me because it's all what The National has always been, but a whole lot more.”
—Nikita Rana, production designer extraordinaire who sticksnobills

“Runaway”

“Strange words, inventive song structures, and Berninger’s classic baritone are just some of the things that give The National that sound that is so undeniably only theirs. Listen to "Runaway" for all of that and possibly the best-sounding kick drum ever recorded.”
—Prateek Kuhad, singer-songwriter and breaker of hearts

“About Today”

“Because Matt Berninger's voice is my equivalent of Tylenol and beer. Because he understands that love is a swamp, and whatever malaise he is inflicted with (you'd only have to hear one album), I think I have it too. No, I'm not a middle-aged gent rocking a 4-piece suit nor a prolonged life crisis, but I feel as heavily as he does. Because I too am trying not to be vacant anymore, but I get sucked in each time. And despite the many slow dumb shows we put on, the person still feels far away. Yes, this is a mashup of lyrics and feelings from three songs because you won't let me have all three.”
—Purva Mehra, melancholia magnet, Matt Berninger lover and my favourite food writer

“Sorrow”

“The first album I heard by The National was the last CD I ever played on my walkman and I had it on loop like it was the end of the world. However, the song I keep going back to even now is "Sorrow". In a phenomenal album, High Violet, "Sorrow" feels the saddest (ha ha), shortest and barest. Listening to it feels like I've been given the tiniest sliver of the world’s best cake, so I need more. Much more. It’s the unparalleled thrill of being hit by the first line out of a slowly rising rhythm (it gets me every single time), the joyous indulgence in one's own sadness that runs through the lyrics ("It’s in my honey, it’s in my milk"), and then the end where, over a haunting wail, Matt Berninger chants, “I don’t want to get over you / I don’t want to get over you.” I can’t imagine listening to it any other way but blaring through headphones as I run to keep up.
—Sneha Nair, associate producer who gives all my music reccos a chance

“Pink Rabbits”

“Every time I’ve tried to pick my favourite song, or even album, by The National, I’ve failed. I love them all endlessly. Admittedly though, Trouble Will Find Me is the album I’ve listened to least from start to finish in the past few years, so here’s "Pink Rabbits", the one song off it that I keep going back to. I also loved discovering, several years ago, that this pink rabbit is a drink from Matt Berninger's imagination that's vodka/gin + strawberry milk—that's pretty fucking disgusting. The song, however, is wonderful. And, as is true of more of The National’s lyrics than I'd care to admit, kinda like they've taken a peek at your life before writing it.”
—Zaira Arslan, not sure she loves Berninger, Raikonnen or Man United more

“Demons”

“I don’t have any particularly strong memories of listening to this band in my teenage years or even a memory of listening to them for the first time. During my final year of college, The National made a faint appearance, around the time High Violet was engulfing rabid, obsessive fans across the world with its unspeakable charm and sorrow. My first boss, and life coach of some sort, during my year-long stint as a music writer-photographer, reintroduced their music to me in some way, and I dove deep into their back catalogue, making my way up from Alligator, Boxer and eventually High Violet. I consumed each album with sincerity, knowing the words to most songs, bodily reacting to the searing guitar duels between the Dessners, wanting to talk-sing like Berninger, and so much more.

When Trouble Will Find Me released, almost six years ago to this date, I had decided to somehow watch the Ohio-rooted indie rock heroes in the flesh within a year. Bed-ridden at the time with a back injury, I consumed TWFM like the greatest mangoes of the season, with all the time to spare at hand. So many songs from the record went on to become haunting reminders of why I came to love this band, and the resolve to spend all this money and travel somewhere to watch them only got stronger. May 30, 2014, came around and I found myself at the (somewhat) front row at Primavera Sound, in Barcelona with the person who re-introduced me to them, sniggering away at me as tears rolled down my face when the band dove into "Demons" after a rousing performance of "Bloodbuzz Ohio", followed by "Sea of Love", and "Hard To Find". I can’t recall the exact moment that triggered the tears, despite being stone-cold sober, but I’d give anything to relive that moment over, and over again.

"When I walk into a room / I do not light it up / Fuck.
Naman Saraiya, Producer, VICE Asia who needn’t be disturbed this weekend, pls

Check out previous editions here, and all of it on Spotify here.