Year In Review, Vol. 1 - The National Lights

The end of a calendar year is a fascinating time to be a die-hard music fan. With the misery of endless Christmas music hogging up the airwaves and endless lines in all the stores comes the glory of List Season. List after list turn up on the sites of trusted bloggers/websites everywhere, providing ample opportunity to check out music that I missed out on the first time around.

This December, to celebrate the music of 2007, I thought I’d ask an assortment of the artists I’ve featured on Pop Headwound over the last 11 months to share their thoughts on the past year with the world (or at least the people in the world who check in with this blog every once in a while). I asked my favorite local artists, and reached out to many larger acts, in hopes of having a diverse assortment of reflections on the music that mattered to the artists that mattered to me.
I feel it’s only appropriate to kick off this year-in-review series with a reflection from Jacob Berns, lead singer/songwriter of The National Lights. When I started this blog back in January one of the first things I did was contact Berns to find out when we could expect the release of his band’s debut album, The Dead Will Walk, Dear. You see, sometime in 2006 I came across a track from it called “Midwest Town” online and fell head over heals for its gentle, aching folk melody. I kept checking their myspace in hopes of finding that their album had been released, only to be continually disappointed by the ever-delayed date. Finally though, with a new year and a new blog, came the release of the album, and somehow, after waiting in anticipation for months, I was still completely overwhelmed by it.

The Dead Will Walk, Dear sounds like traditional folk. It sounds like a singer singing to a lost love; 10 songs of heartache and hard feelings. But listen closer and you’ll find a songwriter obsessed with Flannery O’Connor and the chilling tendencies of the Southern Gothic author. Listen closer and those songs of lost love reveal themselves to be some of the most beautiful murder ballads in the American music canon. You may actually hear the ghost of a girl crying as her heart and bones wash up on the edge of the river. The Dead Will Walk, Dear remains one of my favorite albums of the year; cold and haunting in its words, warm and beautiful in its sound. I can’t wait to hear what The National Lights do next.

2007 Favorites (of Jacob Berns):

Album: No Shouts No Calls — Electrelane
Song: “Flume” — Bon Iver
Novel: The Road — Cormac McCarthy
Hobby: crossword puzzles
Concert: Gillian Welch at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines, IA
Band you may not know, but should: Sleeping in the Aviary
Restaurant: 821 Café, Richmond, VA
New musical instrument: 1961 Gibson C-1 classical guitar
Movie I should have seen in 2006: The Lives of Others

Top 5 Negative The Dead Will Walk, Dear Review Quotes
“A form best reserved for campfires, and people with beards.” — PopMatters
“Wankery.” — Rate Your Music User
“The interaction between weak, effeminate male vocals and the bizarre lyrics is bad enough before realizing all the music is boring. It usually takes multiple listens for something to become actively disliked, but The National Lights manage to make it there after one shot.” — Rate Your Music User
“Wimpy is a dish best served without horrifying lyrics … Woof.” — On Tap Online
“About as exciting as a vasectomy.” — The Eagle Online

What to expect from the National Lights in 2008:
If all goes to plan, the follow-up to The Dead Will Walk, Dear will see light sometime winter 2008. Most of the album is written, and recording is underway. It is called Who the Sea Will Keep. Also, more excitement, beards.

MP3 :: Midwest Town
MP3 :: Buried Treasure
MP3 :: Mess Around

(from The Dead Will Walk, Dear. Buy here)
[official] [myspace] [original post] [interview]

The picture of Jacob Berns is from here.

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