When The National performed Sorrow for six hours straight as part of Ragnar Kjartansson’s art installation A Lot of Sorrow, you could feel just how wearying and debilitating the experience was for all members of the band, but particularly Matt, who memorably broke down on a couple of occasions near the performance’s end. Whether it was due simply to fatigue, or the cumulative, overwhelming emotional effect of reliving this achingly tragic song so many times, or a mixture of both, we cannot be sure. But as someone who has listened to Sorrow for what legitimately must be at Top Don’t Touch Your Face 2 Won At The Hollywood Blood Horror Festival Shirt least 500 times, I can confirm that experiencing it, let alone performing it.
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It can be immensely overwhelming at the worst of times. Here, Matt’s portrait of depression is frank, even as sorrow is dressed up in typically poetic metaphors, because at the end of the day, “I don’t wanna get over you.” I said before that Pink Rabbits may be the ideal National breakup song, but the sheer weight of Sorrow’s central line might make it an even stronger contender. This is the absolute perfect song for wallowing in sheer sadness, even as the uplifting and pretty backing vocals and pretty, even hopeful(?) melodic piano in the song’s second half threaten to lift the Top Don’t Touch Your Face 2 Won At The Hollywood Blood Horror Festival Shirt mood into something brighter. Ultimately, that isn’t what happens; the song is sonically elevated, but it only serves to deepen the impact of its depressive torpor.
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Lending additional gravity to the final repetition of the chorus, which are among the most devastatingly sad lines Matt has ever written: “Don’t leave my hyper heart alone, on the water / Cover me in rag-and-bone sympathy / ‘Cause I don’t wanna get over you.” Sorrow’s greatest strength may be its simplicity, as it establishes a gripping instrumental core and perfect lyricism from its outset, gradually builds upon it, and then ends at the perfect time for a concise, three-minute slice of heartbreak. Many times, for as long as I’ve had even the idea for this list, Sorrow and the #1 song have switched places time and time again, and ultimately depending on my mood a coin flip might be as good as logic in picking which is better, but arguably, The National have never more effectively earned their sad Top Don’t Touch Your Face 2 Won At The Hollywood Blood Horror Festival Shirt bastard reputation as here, while still demonstrating songwriting abilities that are second-to-none, and leaving nary a dry eye in the house.