Single Review: The National – Carin at the Liquor Store

By on Monday, 14th August 2017 at 12:00 pm

American alt-rock icons The National have just released a third single from their upcoming album ‘Sleep Well Beast’, to follow ‘Guilty Party’ and edgy recent Billboard AAA #1 track ‘The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness’. The new single ‘Carin at the Liquor Store’ carries on with the lyrical theme of faltering romance explored in the first two tracks, but its music reflects a slightly different emotional angle.

The National are known for the subtle orchestral textures of their musical arrangements, and they appear to have kept with that idea on the new album, with graceful brass and wind melodies weaving their way through all three current tracks. While the unrelenting drum rhythm was at the forefront of the sound mix in ‘Guilty Party’ and the guitars reigned supreme in ‘The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness’, it’s the piano taking centre stage in ‘Carin at the Liquor Store’. As expected, the solo piano-vocal pairing creates a stark sense of intimacy, which prevails even as the arrangement grows dynamically through the course of the song.

Likewise, frontman Matt Berninger’s typically cryptic lyrics somehow feel intensely personal. The song’s female character shares her moniker with Berninger’s wife, editor and producer Carin Besser, and the odd details in his words ring true, regardless of whether or not they reflect real life. Berninger’s final addendum to the chorus lyrics (“it’s gonna be different after tonight / you’re gonna see me in a different light / it’s a foregone conclusion”) could be read as either conciliatory or threatening, especially voiced in his deep baritone, and its ultimate interpretation is anything but a “foregone conclusion” for the listener.


Just below, you can watch the kaleidoscopically obscure visual interpretation of ‘Carin at the Liquor Store’, directed by Casey Reas. The National’s seventh studio album ‘Sleep Well Beast’ is due for release on the 8th of September via 4AD. TGTF’s past coverage of The National is back through here.



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