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Everything Is Embarrassing: On Loving The National

Music for a leaking heart

by Helena Fitzgerald / Oct. 9, 2017

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possibly my all-time fave piece of music writing. just so personal and so fucking good.

Fitzgerald, H. (2017, October 09). Everything Is Embarrassing: On Loving The National. NYLON. https://nylon.com/articles/national-sleep-well-beast-everything-is-embarrassing

The thing about having a long relationship with a band is that it signposts one’s life, and sometimes the way it does so is profoundly uncomfortable. I waited a few days to listen to the songs that came out in advance of this record because I wasn’t sure I was ready to perform the taking-stock that I knew would inevitably happen, the way the continuance of the things we love drags us back to who we were at every point in our life when we loved them. Returning to this band when they put out new music is like returning to an old friend: deeply familiar and wholly uncomfortable. It’s a reckoning with the changing self, the truths we look away from and the threads that pull continuance through a life, the things we have lost, failed to maintain, or tried to slough off.

by Helena Fitzgerald 6 months, 2 weeks ago

The thing about having a long relationship with a band is that it signposts one’s life, and sometimes the way it does so is profoundly uncomfortable. I waited a few days to listen to the songs that came out in advance of this record because I wasn’t sure I was ready to perform the taking-stock that I knew would inevitably happen, the way the continuance of the things we love drags us back to who we were at every point in our life when we loved them. Returning to this band when they put out new music is like returning to an old friend: deeply familiar and wholly uncomfortable. It’s a reckoning with the changing self, the truths we look away from and the threads that pull continuance through a life, the things we have lost, failed to maintain, or tried to slough off.

by Helena Fitzgerald 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Something about the National has always felt like an escape, which is at face value an odd thing to say about a band whose subject is mainly sadness and anxiety. It’s both easy to and fun to make jokes about this band being the saddest band, the saddest dads, a band full of sad dads who really love being sad. All of these jokes are accurate: The National is a band whose form and content is sadness. But the reason this band’s music seemed to act as an opening of a pressure valve on my own sadness and anxiety and that of my friend is that it’s about sadness rather than grief. Their music is the difference between the two, the luxury of sadness versus the hard edges of grief.

Sadness spreads like a stain, sadness feels bodied and over-sensitized and ringing, like the first time you got high when you were a teenager, when you lay down on the carpet and nothing had ever been better or more important than the carpet. Sadness often acts as a temporary escape from grief. There are lots and lots of things worse in human reality than a broken heart or an unfaithful lover, and all of them are absent in the National’s music. That’s so much of what’s wonderful in it. Its sadness is a reckless, obliterative escape from the larger griefs of the world, focusing in on the overwhelming, petty, selfish concerns of the privileged heart. This music is enjoyable, squishy, and opulent in all its bad-hearted moping. Nothing in this music howls; everything oozes, everything has another drink and swoons into bed, sad and horny.

by Helena Fitzgerald 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Something about the National has always felt like an escape, which is at face value an odd thing to say about a band whose subject is mainly sadness and anxiety. It’s both easy to and fun to make jokes about this band being the saddest band, the saddest dads, a band full of sad dads who really love being sad. All of these jokes are accurate: The National is a band whose form and content is sadness. But the reason this band’s music seemed to act as an opening of a pressure valve on my own sadness and anxiety and that of my friend is that it’s about sadness rather than grief. Their music is the difference between the two, the luxury of sadness versus the hard edges of grief.

Sadness spreads like a stain, sadness feels bodied and over-sensitized and ringing, like the first time you got high when you were a teenager, when you lay down on the carpet and nothing had ever been better or more important than the carpet. Sadness often acts as a temporary escape from grief. There are lots and lots of things worse in human reality than a broken heart or an unfaithful lover, and all of them are absent in the National’s music. That’s so much of what’s wonderful in it. Its sadness is a reckless, obliterative escape from the larger griefs of the world, focusing in on the overwhelming, petty, selfish concerns of the privileged heart. This music is enjoyable, squishy, and opulent in all its bad-hearted moping. Nothing in this music howls; everything oozes, everything has another drink and swoons into bed, sad and horny.

by Helena Fitzgerald 6 months, 2 weeks ago

[...] I have frequently tried to get my husband to listen to the National, but before this, it had never stuck. His only comment last summer, when I put all their albums on shuffle on Spotify and played it in the car was, “Is that guy going to apologize again?”

But last week, he texted me that he couldn’t stop listening to “Day I Die” on repeat, compared the band to the Cure, and then went face-down in the band’s back catalogue, texting me a running commentary of exclamation and discovery and new love that I remember from seven years and two albums ago. Then, I was just barely 26 years old when High Violet came out, and I had just gotten out of a very bad relationship. On the other side of that breakup, the world felt saturated with oxygen, like an abundant holiday table when you haven’t eaten all day, everything for grabbing. I was so profoundly, disgustingly grateful for the world, for each next day, for each new thing. I listened to “Bloodbuzz Ohio” for the first time, and I wanted to put myself inside its majestic, wallowing, self-mocking sound, the floor-dragging baritone of the lead singer whose voice sounded like a car driving with the brake on and the unreasonably optimistic backbeat pulling it forward all the same.

i remember reading this when i was still with toby and, guiltily, wanting to get to that point so badly

by Helena Fitzgerald 6 months, 2 weeks ago

[...] I have frequently tried to get my husband to listen to the National, but before this, it had never stuck. His only comment last summer, when I put all their albums on shuffle on Spotify and played it in the car was, “Is that guy going to apologize again?”

But last week, he texted me that he couldn’t stop listening to “Day I Die” on repeat, compared the band to the Cure, and then went face-down in the band’s back catalogue, texting me a running commentary of exclamation and discovery and new love that I remember from seven years and two albums ago. Then, I was just barely 26 years old when High Violet came out, and I had just gotten out of a very bad relationship. On the other side of that breakup, the world felt saturated with oxygen, like an abundant holiday table when you haven’t eaten all day, everything for grabbing. I was so profoundly, disgustingly grateful for the world, for each next day, for each new thing. I listened to “Bloodbuzz Ohio” for the first time, and I wanted to put myself inside its majestic, wallowing, self-mocking sound, the floor-dragging baritone of the lead singer whose voice sounded like a car driving with the brake on and the unreasonably optimistic backbeat pulling it forward all the same.

i remember reading this when i was still with toby and, guiltily, wanting to get to that point so badly

by Helena Fitzgerald 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Most of the things we love are the things that embarrass us. Most of the reasons we love people are the same reasons they embarrass us. I got into the National late, after just about everybody I knew, when High Violet came out in 2010. I may have been a dilettante and a joiner, but I joined with the fullest heart, with the most aggressively committed sentimentalism imaginable. I got into the band with my whole face, with my whole bad leaking heart, the kind every one of their songs chronicled; a bad leaking heart that was majestic and untrustworthy and slightly off-key, dragging itself desultory and bloated down the sidewalk to another party to drink at the open bar with everybody else’s bad hearts.

I had never loved a band like I loved this band, and the truth is I never really have since. I acknowledge that quite a lot of music is better than the National, more accomplished, more important, more coherent, and less embarrassing. But we rarely love things for reasons that aren’t embarrassing. The things we really love say more about who we are than we’d like them to say. The National are far and away my favorite band, but if you asked me what music I like and I didn’t know you well, I wouldn’t necessarily mention them. That answer would reveal too much. Maybe I don’t want you to know me that well; maybe I don’t want to be that known.

by Helena Fitzgerald 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Most of the things we love are the things that embarrass us. Most of the reasons we love people are the same reasons they embarrass us. I got into the National late, after just about everybody I knew, when High Violet came out in 2010. I may have been a dilettante and a joiner, but I joined with the fullest heart, with the most aggressively committed sentimentalism imaginable. I got into the band with my whole face, with my whole bad leaking heart, the kind every one of their songs chronicled; a bad leaking heart that was majestic and untrustworthy and slightly off-key, dragging itself desultory and bloated down the sidewalk to another party to drink at the open bar with everybody else’s bad hearts.

I had never loved a band like I loved this band, and the truth is I never really have since. I acknowledge that quite a lot of music is better than the National, more accomplished, more important, more coherent, and less embarrassing. But we rarely love things for reasons that aren’t embarrassing. The things we really love say more about who we are than we’d like them to say. The National are far and away my favorite band, but if you asked me what music I like and I didn’t know you well, I wouldn’t necessarily mention them. That answer would reveal too much. Maybe I don’t want you to know me that well; maybe I don’t want to be that known.

by Helena Fitzgerald 6 months, 2 weeks ago