I’ve been a huge fan of The National since I saw them in concert nearly seven years ago, and I’m beyond excited to be seeing them again in Philadelphia at the end of September. Their work has been incredibly consistent, and their latest album Sleep Well Beast is certainly no exception in terms of quality, yet it has brought with it a slight shift in sound and meaning. The National has always been a rock band with a very guitar forward focus, but the introduction of carefully selected electronic and orchestral elements on this release raises things to a whole new level, and creates layers of both subtlety and sophistication. Band frontman Matt Berninger, who writes his song lyrics with his wife Carin Besser, often taps into the darker, more melancholic aspects of life and love. That’s one of the reasons why I love The National so much! Sleep Well Beast zeroes in on the idea of the dissolution of long term relationships and the difficulty in maintaining that first flush of love that can so quickly slip away from us. There are also several tracks on the album that focus on our country’s current political situation and leave no question as to who is responsible for it. Greg Kott sums it up best in an article for the Chicago Tribune by saying, ” [Sleep Well Beast] is an album that works well with the lights turned low, if only to better empathize with the dimming prospects of singer Matt Berninger’s narrators.” Totally true.
In the midst of all this gloom, however, I found myself drawn again and again to “The Dark Side of the Gym,” the track that caught my attention first. The dreamy quality of the song pulled me in immediately, and the line “I’m gonna keep you in love with me for a while” remains raw and emotional in a huge way for me. Who doesn’t want to say these words to someone? Or who doesn’t want to ask someone to stay in love, and do all the things required to make that love last? It strikes a chord in each of us. We’ve all had that moment when we’re falling in love and we begin to think of wanting that love to stay forever. The thought does indeed weave in and out of our dreams, along with our memories of moments spent together. As if this song didn’t tug at my heartstrings enough, The National shared its video, directed by Justin Peck, the resident choreographer at the New York City Ballet who stars in it alongside Patricia Delgado. Together, they dance through a darkened gymnasium filled with colorful balloons. Watch for the moment when she pulls him into an embrace at about 2:18 in. I’ve included the link at the bottom of the post. It is breathtaking for me, but then again you all know how hopelessly romantic I am.
For today’s cocktail, I used a group of ingredients that all had an equally ethereal quality. I began with a base of Laphroaig Select, a smoky Islay Scotch that always speaks to me of things that are elusive and shrouded in mystery. Barrow’s Intense Ginger added to the… well, intensity of this idea. I added a maple ginger switchel (an apple cider vinegar drink) and built on either side of it with lemon juice and elderberry syrup. I topped the drink with a blueberry honeysuckle spritzel that has the switchel as its base. (If you’re laughing by now, it’s okay. I am too.) That’s the layering you see in the photo. In terms of meaning, elderberry syrup represents beginnings and endings, such an important element to Sleep Well Beast as a whole. It is also thought to evoke deep magic, and that idea is so prevalent in this song. Blueberries were a highly spiritual fruit to Native Americans who used them for protection, and honeysuckle is a symbol of devoted affection and a lover’s embrace. They fit in perfectly. Cheers everyone. Happy Wednesday! If you don’t know The National, fix that immediately. If you do, then you know exactly why I just said that.
Gonna Keep You in Love With Me
Combine all the ingredients (except the Spritzel) in a shaker tin with ice and shake vigorously until cold. Strain into an old-fashioned glass over one large cube. Top with the spritzel. Enjoy!
Cide Road products found at Wegman’s. The Elderberry syrup is available at Whole Foods.