Since November 2017, I have been stumbling alone in the darkness that is this cruel, cold plane of existence we call reality. Perfect, pure creature comforts that once made me feel (almost) secure have been eradicated. Gone are the Fridays of wearing a beloved Band Tee to work. No longer has my calendar been marked up in excitement for upcoming tour dates. Hours upon hours that once were spent pondering the potential release of an unannounced album have instead been wasted on arbitrary tasks such as trying to write novels or connecting with loved ones. The friends I made online over our shared fandom have long since dispersed, or, worse, doubled-down on their support of that band. And with my browsing of new band merch kept to a minimum, Social Media Sites don’t even try to sell me things I desperately want to buy. Kurt Vonnegut wrote during the Bush presidency that he was “a man without a country.” Well, for the last fifteen months, I’ve been a man without a favorite band.
With this part of my identity believed-to-be-destroyed forever, I’ve been left to aimlessly enter record stores, pacing their rows like Sisyphus, never buying anything, never daring to make eye contact with the dreaded BR album-divider in the alt/rock section, just continually pushing the boulder of my broken-heart (yet full wallet?) up the aisle. “No, thank you, I don’t need help finding anything. This is what I’m here for,” I’d say to the kind clerk who’d bring me water and crackers for sustenance.
Occasionally, during a neutral social interaction, an acquaintance would say something along the lines of: “Oh, so you like music, do you have a favorite band?” And in response, I could only stare into the unrelenting middle distance until they changed the subject. Where once I mocked the void, I now found it lurking within. I couldn’t (sighs)…get…it…out.
This has been my plight for the last 482 days, but no more.
For I am here today to bring the good news: I have a new favorite band.
This decision has not been reached lightly. My previous favorite band had been with me for almost sixteen years.After that, I needed to spend some time with myself to assess my needs and my wants, to differentiate between who I’ve been and who I want to become. I needed a band that would foster that growth, a band that would meet me at who I am and then push me to become better.
With this in mind, I developed six criteria for what my favorite band should entail:
1.) They should be bad-ass live.
2.) Their lyrics should connect on a deeply personal level.
3.) They should have at bare minimum three more “great” albums than they have “meh” albums.
4.) Their music should be just as enjoyable to listen to during the day as it is at night, and vice versa.
5.) They should be intensely relatable while still maintaining that certain rockstar quality that feeds into my unhealthy hero-worship ideation.
6.) They should be, by all accounts, decent human beings.
There are several artists that meet most of these criteria and were at one time or another considered for the honor of being my new favorite band. For the sake of fun, here they are in descending order:
Pedro the Lion / David Bazan (meets 5.9/6)
Bazan falls just short of criteria #5 by being somehow too relatable as a person. Honestly though, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Manchester Orchestra (meets 5/6)
Manchester only has two truly great albums. My simple math tells me that’s only one more than Cope.
mewithoutYou (meets 5/6)
Unfortunately, I can’t really listen to them any time. Their music calls for a very specific mood.
James Harden (meets 6/6)
I love him. Not a band though.
Honorable Mentions: Death Cab For Cutie, Phoebe Bridgers, Kendrick Lamar, Tigers Jaw, Touche Amore, Camp Cope, The Front Bottoms, Kevin Devine, and The Mountain Goats.
Which leaves only one…
Dearest friends, family, and stray Internet bots who happen by my website, please wake up your saints and tell them my new favorite band is
In the summer of 2011, Stacy and I visited the East Coast, first attending her cousin’s wedding in Baltimore before making our way up to NYC for several days. The National were the soundtrack for that trip. As far as I was concerned, they were the sound of New York. Over the course of our trip, like many a small-town Midwestern kid, I fell in love with the city and thus, indirectly, came to love the band for how they made me feel connected with a place that was so far away, a place in which, despite my (still) constant daydreaming, I would probably never live.
A few weeks later, we found out that Stacy was pregnant with our first child. For the rest of the summer, as I made the nightly drive to work midnight shift at Night’s Shield, I would listen to High Violet, connecting so deeply with its themes of responsibility and adulthood, feeling hopeful yet scared of what it means to bring a child into this world, knowing that whatever may come, I would defend my family with my orange umbrella, however silly and ridiculous that may seem.
The National have been a mainstay in my life ever since.
Here are some lists:
Current Ranking of National Albums
2. High Violet
3. Trouble Will Find Me
5. Sleep Well Beast
6. Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers
(This list reorders itself on a near daily basis, which is also part of what makes The National so great)
Current Ranking of National EPs
1. Cherry Tree
2. The Virginia EP
Top Ten Songs
1. Slow Show
2. Nobody Else Will Be There
3. Afraid of Everyone
4. I Need My Girl
5. Fake Empire
6. Baby We’ll Be Fine
7. Don’t Swallow the Cap
8. All the Wine
9. Anyone’s Ghost
10. Mr. November
Next Five Up:
Hard To Find
Walk It Back
Best The National Brothers
1. Scott & Bryan Devendorf
2. Bryce & Aaron Dessner
3. Matt & Tom Berninger
A Smattering of Berninger Lyrics That I Maybe Relate To Too Much
1. “With my kid on my shoulders I try not to hurt anybody I like” (Afraid of Everyone)
2. “Remember when you lost your shit and drove the car into the garden/you got out and said I’m sorry/To the vines and no one saw it” (I Need My Girl)
3. “I still owe money to the money to the money I owe/I never thought about love when I thought about home/I still owe money to the money to the money I owe/The floors are falling out from everybody I know” (Bloodbuzz Ohio.)
4. “Make up something to believe in your heart of hearts/So you have something to wear on your sleeve of sleeves/So you swear, you just saw a feathery woman/ Carry a blindfolded man through the trees.” (Mistaken For Strangers)
5. “It’s a Hollywood summer/You’d never believe the shitty thoughts I think/Meet our friends out for dinner/When I said what I said, I didn’t mean anything” (Conversation 16)
Favorite Line to Shout Along to While I’m Driving Alone in My Car: “You know I dreamed about you for twenty-nine years before I saw you” (Slow Show)
Favorite Line to Scream Along to While I’m Driving Alone in My Car:“I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr. November/I’m Mr. November, I won’t fuck us over” (Mr. November)
A Handful of Silly Berninger Lyrics
1. “I was teething on roses/I was in guns & noses” (Humiliation)
2. “I’m a perfect piece of ass” (All the Wine)
3. “I scratched a ticket with a leg of a cricket/And I got triple Jesus/Cashed it in for a Siamese twin/At the family firing range” (Return to the Moon- EL VY)
4. “I’ll be the one in the lobby in collared fuck-me shirt/The green one” (I’m the Man to Be- EL VY)
5. Pretty much the rest of the EL VY album.
Favorite National-Adjacent Artists
1. Phoebe Bridgers
2. Sufjan Stevens
3. Courtney Barnett
4. Sharon Van Etten
5. Sure, Justin Vernon, I guess.
Favorite National Side Projects
1. EL VY
2. That Planetarium Album Bryce Dessner did with Sufjan
4. Big Red Machine
Favorite Character to Appear in The National’s Songs: Davey.
Amount of Time I’ve Spent Trying to Think of the Perfect National Tattoo: Cumulatively ~7 hours.
Favorite Live Show: I haven’t actually seen them live yet (I’m remedying that on June 26th!) so for now, I’ll have to say YouTube videos. In particular this one (credit to Tiziana Catiana):
One of the Only Good Parts About Being On Facebook Still: The National Geeseposting (It’s a fan maintained National page and it’s wonderful)
Favorite National-Related Goose Meme (and There Are A Lot Apparently):
That’s all I’ve got.
So the National are my favorite band now, which I know is not at all characteristic of an approaching middle aged white dad, but, still, I’m pretty happy with this decision. I joined their fan club, Cherry Tree, this week and have already preordered their new album. Thanks for sticking with me through this trying time. Baby, we’ll be fine.
Prior to Brand New (02-17), I think Blink-182 maintained “favorite band” status from 99-02, and before that it was Wu-Tang Clan from 97-99. I definitely peaked in ’97.
To the uninitiated, let me clarify, a “bad-ass” live band means more than just thrashing around with their instruments and yelling themselves red-faced, save spin-kicks for Myspace profile pics, thanks. No, a bad-ass live band should provide a near transcendental experience where one feels as though they are witnessing more than just a group of people playing songs about how sad they are or whatever, it should be something spiritual that lingers with you for days, an experience that has you thinking that you would gladly pay double Livenation’s ridiculous service fees if only you could experience it again. That, to me, is a bad-ass live band.
In this instance transposing live shows to live games and albums for seasons. Yeah, I think that works.
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha oh I will die before we pay off my student loans.
Hey, if someone says I look taller, I’m going to like them. It’s pretty simple.