“Fleetwood Mac is, to fans, not just a band but a riveting 40-plus-year soap opera involving the loss of members to schizophrenia and a religious cult; the arrival in 1974 of gorgeous, drama-filled young couple Stevie and Lindsey; and the cocaine-and-alcohol-fueled divorces and affairs behind 1977’s Rumours, which became the then-fastest-selling album of all time. You don’t come to one of their shows just for the music; you come to watch them masochistically stare down their past before a live audience. You come to watch Stevie and Lindsey—who’ve known each other since high school—look into each other’s eyes and harmonize on the songs they wrote about each other, in anger, long ago: “Dreams” (by Stevie, “Now here you go again / You say you want your freedom / Well, who am I to keep you down?”), and “Go Your Own Way” and “Never Going Back Again” (by Lindsey, and meaner). You come to see Stevie dance in front of Mick’s drum kit, knowing full well she had an affair with him after her breakup with Lindsey, while Mick was married—as Lindsey wails away on guitar and looks on. You come because you feel for the quiet, steady man on bass, John McVie (the only guy in the band Stevie hasn’t slept with), who had to lay down the rhythm track on songs like “You Make Loving Fun,” written by his ex-wife, now-retired keyboardist and singer Christine McVie, about her affair with the band’s lighting director and how she’d never been so satisfied by a man before.”
The National - Learning (Perfume Genius cover)
This has been around for two weeks and I’m just now hearing it?? Like most Perfume Genius it’s pretty and sad and makes my heart hurt, but Matt Berninger’s vocals lend it the kind of old-man sadness that Genius won’t be able to pull off for another 20 years or so. B+, would listen again.
This is a picture of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Bryce and Aaron Dessner from the National, and a Citibike. Casting around for a Trouble Will Find Me joke here, the mayor considered “Let’s hope your riding skills haven’t ‘Slipped’” before ultimately settling on “You want to see ‘graceless,’ you should see me on one of these things.”
“The band’s friend, neighbor, and longtime collaborator Sufjan Stevens keeps mostly to himself in a sleeveless Ghostbusters tee, an orange messenger bag over his shoulder. Babies are out of their Bjorns, being outfitted with ear plugs. The air is thick with the smell of local, carefully hopped craft ales and the perfume of roses and hypericum, lilies and lavender lining the front windows, open now so that the sound can reach a large crowd assembling on the sidewalk.”
Trouble Will Find Me is a spectacular, thrilling listen from a band I had begun to doubt. The National sound like they have shed the weight of expectation that made High Violet such dour, leaden listening. It’s hard to be too disappointed in them for that one — how would you have followed up Boxer? — but it’s also true that Violet abandoned the intimate, overheard quality of the band’s best work in favor of sour non sequiturs cast uncomfortably as anthems. (One of the weirdest things I ever saw a band do live came when Berninger tried to get the crowd to sing along with an acoustic, unamplified version of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks,” a totally inscrutable song to which perhaps one person in ten million knows the lyrics. This was somehow the band’s final encore for years.)
On Trouble Berninger is once again dissolving in self-doubt and depression, but — crucially — he has once again found his footing as a poet. Take “Graceless,” my favorite song on Trouble, which the band performs above on Colbert. It’s a song about alienation, desperation, and the desire to give up — bleak stuff, but expressed with such power that it becomes, in its own way, affirming. Berninger feels himself slipping away but also wishes to give his partner roses, some symbolic beauty to “brighten the place” even as he vanishes into a fog.
Berninger works in some wicked comedy here — the exasperated sigh of “God loves everybody, don’t remind me” might be my favorite lyric of the year. He also pulls off one of the trickiest feats in all English-language songwriting, pairing “self” with its the only true rhyme in a way that feels authentic to the material.
Mostly, though, what I appreciate here is the band’s resurgent wildness. So many times over the years I have wished the National would loosen up, get sloppy, and sing with the sort of intensity they used to bring to “Abel” and “Mr. November.” After High Violet it was easy to assume they would continue getting softer and sleepier until they were playing solely to the coffeehouse crowd. But the vast darkness inside Matt Berninger has turned out to be an animating force, bitter but alive with poetry, and it works a strange alchemy here. Trouble Will Find Me is one of the year’s best records, and “Graceless” is its lacerated heart.
After a rash of acquisitions, it’s make or break for Yahoo’s young CEO
Over in my real life, I tried to put Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr into context. Yahoo’s history gives us few reasons to be optimistic about how this will all turn out, and Tumblr is actually a weirder and much more fragile company than most of us assume day to day. Yet for some reason my gut tells me the whole thing is so crazy it just might work. Marissa Mayer is a master operator, she has moved boldly and thoughtfully since taking over at Yahoo, and while there are no guarantees it strikes me as just the sort of gamble both companies ought to be taking.