The National’s Manager Picks His Favorite Tracks

The National’s Manager Picks His Favorite Tracks

Brandon Reid has been managing the National since the Alligator (2005) days. In celebration of the band’s newest release, the stunning Sleep Well Beast, Reid put together a list of his favorite National tracks featuring some fond memories of the band.

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“90 Mile Water Wall”
This song was featured on Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers, and by the time I started working with the band, they had moved on to 2005’s Alligator. But this song affected me, particularly this lyric: ‘So how could your hair have the nerve to dance around like that, blowing?/And how could the air have the nerve to blow your hair around like that?’ It was this song that first made me realize that there is something deeply special about this band.

“Nobody Else Will Be There” 
This song started its life called ‘Great Horn,’ its working title. No one plays the piano like Aaron Dessner… his rhythm and pulse. And that can be heard on this song. The instrumental interlude and when Matt re-enters the song gives me chills every time. I’m very fond of the lyric, ‘Hey baby, where were you back then?/When I needed your hand/I thought that when I stuck my neck out I’d get you out of your shell.’ If you’ve been in love it’s impossible not to relate to these themes.

“The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness”
Versions of this song have existed for a couple of years, but it wasn’t until the last two weeks of mixing that the band completely destroyed what was this song and rebuilt it into its final form. Mixer Peter Katis, engineer Jon Low and I stood by trying to be helpful… but in the end, the band worked it out and delivered a song that I can listen to over and over.

“Santa Clara”
This is a Boxer-era b-side. My big brother got me into music, and this is his favorite National song. He requests it live regularly and sometimes the band obliges.

“Fake Empire” 
During Obama’s campaign, this song from the album Boxer was used in both a campaign video and then when Obama took the stage in Chicago to accept that he had won the presidency. During this time, the band had the honor of meeting President Obama on numerous occasions, and to this day, we keep in touch with members of Obama’s staff. For me, ‘Fake Empire’ will always evoke a sense of hope.

I have a clear memory of Scott Devendorf laying down the rhythm guitar part in Peter Katis’ basement for this song. We had set up a sub studio downstairs while Peter worked upstairs with the others. Scott, Bryan and I called this forsaken land ‘Bongo Island.’ Various items typically found in a basement, broken fans and pipes, were mic’d and struck. These details were present in both Boxer and High Violet.

“Don’t Swallow the Cap”
This number from Trouble Will Find Me spoke to me immediately and quickly because a popular show opener for the band. I identify with Matt’s love of the albums Let it Be and Nevermind and the lyrics had enough of an impression on me that I had the word ‘evergreen’ tattooed on the back of my hand. Maybe a bit of a reminder.

“Afraid of Everyone”
Live this song has become a monster and continually gets my blood going. We’re very fortunate that on multiple occasions the band’s close friend Sufjan Stevens has lent his beautiful and haunting vocals to this number, as seen on The Late Show with David Letterman, or more recently at the Bowery Ballroom.

The only song National song I perform on. A floor tom. It’s impossible not to think about the dark Bush days in the lyrics of this song.

“Apartment Story”
Given the title of this song from Boxer, it’s not surprising to hear that the vocals were in fact recorded in Matt and Carin’s apartment while I was their houseguest. While Carin was at work, Matt and I would spend much of the day working and drinking white wine until we’d inevitably require a quick nap break. Carin would return and review Matt’s progress. It was an excellent time and I’ll never forget it.

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