In this essay I’ll talk about why I like and what meaning I think it’s behind The National’s song, Apartment Story. First off, I’d love to give some background about the group. The National is an indie rock, Ohio-raised and Brooklyn-based band formed in 1999 and consists of vocalist Matt Berninger and two pairs of brothers: Aaron and Bryce Dessner (guitar, bass, piano; guitar) and Scott and Bryan Devendorf (bass guitar; drums). It’s been a long time since its beginnings in the 90s and they’ve released five albums (The National; Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers; Alligator; Boxer; High Violet) and two EPs (Cherry Tree; A Skin, A Night and The Virginia).
Now, if it was up to me I’d write all about every single album this awesome band has released, but since I’m supposed to focus on one song from one album, let’s talk about Boxer. Boxer was released to the media on May 22, 2007 and since then has sold over 300, 000 copies worldwide. The album is made up of twelve songs (Fake Empire, Mistaken for Strangers, Brainy, Squalor Victoria, Green Gloves, Slow Show, Apartment Story, Start a War, Guest Room, Racing Like a Pro, Ada, Gospel) and has a guest performance by Sufjan Stevens and Marla Hansen (best known as St. Vincent). The reception it got from the media was stellar— it even made various album of the decade lists, including one in especial: Pitchfork Media’s (a quite important and well-known website focused on underground and independent music).
Enough with getting to know the basics of this (amazing!) band and the album, now it’s time to stay on topic and let me explain why I love —and consider— Apartment Story one of my favorite songs ever.
Picking a song from an iPod that currently has 510 songs wasn’t an easy task. Hell, picking a favorite band is something that I can never do because I just love my music so much that a simple question as that makes me panic at the moment it’s asked. But (and yes, I know you’re not supposed to start a sentence with that word. Sorry!) when I decided I HAD to do this and Apartment Story started on shuffle, I knew I had a winner.
My relation (and yes, I do think that way, as weird as it might sound) with The National and this epic song started back in December of 2010 and since then, it has been non-stop. While to this date I can’t recall which day it was that I discovered them, I do remember which song made me love the band. And (again, sorry!) if you guessed Apartment Story was that song, you’re absolutely right. Maybe it was because I hadn’t hear a band like that in a while (after all, it was a moment in my life when I was moving on from Disney and things you would hear in the top 40 songs on the radio to bands and artists you only discovered on the net or thanks to a friend), but when I hear that second verse:
Oh, we're so disarming, darling, everything we did believe
Is diving, diving, diving, diving off the balcony
Tired and wired, we ruin too easy
Sleep in our clothes and wait for winter to leave
I knew I was in love with the band and this song already.
I don’t actually know what it was about the verse (was it the feeling of knowing about how something you thought was a major belief in your life, one day turned out to be bullshit? Was it knowing how a relationship could get rotten after a while and you feel discouraged? Or was it just the way the song made me feel and think I could relate to situations I haven’t been in?) but I was hooked.
I wish could talk about the meaning I think this song has. About how it might be about a young couple and the problems and obstacles they’re trying to overcome together while growing up at the same time. They’re tired and wired, but still have hope. They try to hide from responsibilities acting childish, being naïve, and trying to hold on to what they used to believe in (even if they’ve realized it’s diving off the balcony). They think as long as they live inside their rosy-minded fuzz/own world, they won’t have to face reality, growing up and being mature. But then comes the so worry not, all things are well, we’ll be alright, which, in my opinion, is giving a bit up on their way of thinking and trying to reassure themselves they’ll be alright in the real world. It’ll be okay. Last but not least, it’s we have our looks and perfume on, which makes me think that they both realize yes, it’s time to mature, but we’re still young and there’s lots to live. We’ll survive the ‘adult world’.
Or maybe it’s about growing up and having a somewhat Peter Pan syndrome stage. Not wanting to be mature and responsible, but still going out to the world showing a façade; realizing everything you were made to believe in as a child is mostly false; knowing life’s not easy but still hoping for the best to come; relating to music on the radio and feeling tired; still hoping, still waiting for a better future; a kind of ‘fuck you!’ society trying to dictate how to behave and live by saying We’ll stay inside ‘till somebody finds us, do whatever the TV tells us (also known as preferring living in the ignorance of crap television shows and biased news) and last but not least, an optimistic view of life and what’s ahead.
In conclusion, I have no idea what I’m talking about, but if I’m sure of one thing is that I sure love The National. I might not be the most eloquent person on earth, but when I start listening to TN, I feel like I’m capable of anything. And that includes writing an essay with a cliché and quite cheesy ending that I’m not that proud of but while listening to all my songs by the band, doesn’t bother me *that* much.