Thu 24 Jun 2021

Did you know… Bartees Strange loves The National

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Last year, Bartees Strange released his critically-acclaimed album, Live Forever. A fierce display of post-punk synth-rock with ties to hip hop, it proved to be a bullet train full of angst and purpose. A personal record about Strange’s experience growing up in Mustang, Oklahoma, it details the volatile nature of his hometown, where racism and racial inequality remains rife.

However, before this Bartees Strange was found covering The National. Not just one cover either, a full EP of them.

Early last year, he released covers of ‘About Today’ and ‘Lemonworld, before releasing Say Goodbye to Pretty Boy, an EP containing further covers of ‘Mr. November’ and ‘All The Wine’ alongside the aforementioned tracks.

And, while the lyrics remained the same, the instrumentation and production demonstrated Bartees’ innovative talents. Adding an electronic spin to each song, as well as the driving rock elements found on his album, he managed to completely recreate each of the four songs, putting his own mark on them.

On ‘Lemonworld’ the verses plod along at a slow, ponderous tempo before crashing guitars come in and the chorus transforms the track into a rock ‘n’ roll number. Elsewhere, ‘Mr November’ takes on an optimistic soundscape. It’s dreamy and hopeful, tender in its execution unlike the original’s rampant pace. Meanwhile, ‘About Today’ is ponderous and pleasant, as the original’s sombre tone is left well alone.

This isn’t Bartees trying to take on The National, but rather pay ode to Matt Berninger’s songwriting and the influence The National’s musicality and production has had on him. This is further present in his album. The lyrics are personal and blunt, but always telling a story. The production is tight, layered and expansive, constantly developing and desperate to uncover new ground.

Bartees Strange first came onto my radar covering The National, but he quickly became much more than that. A clever songwriter with clear song writing talents, Bartees Strange is always trying to innovate.

Catch Bartees Strange in Manchester on November 14th at Night and Day Café.

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