Well…duh. The National. Has any band had a greater influence on our current decade? We’ve witnessed High Violet (2010), Trouble Will Find Me (2013), Sleep Well Beast (2017), and we’re about to get hit with one more dose of brilliance with 2019’s I Am Easy to Find. So as obvious as it is that The National belong on this list, it’s far less certain what track best highlights why.
They’re a band of consistent excellence, and anyone who loves them knows that ranking their songs is futile. Everyone seems to identify with a different track for personal reasons, and beyond just grabbing a single such as “Bloodbuzz Ohio” or “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” and calling it their most widely appealing, there’s few ways to objectively approach this. So I won’t.
The thing is, “Pink Rabbits” still devastates me six years later. The National are no strangers to forlorn, swaying melodies with downtrodden messages, but there’s something about this tune in particular that resonates with every emotional fiber in me. It’s a breakup song; well yeah, sort of. But it’s also about the sting of separation – which the narrator overcomes – only to be confronted by the same girl right as he was on the mend: “I was coming back from what seemed like a ruin / I couldn’t see you coming so far, I just turn around and there you are / I’m so surprised you want to dance with me now, I was just getting used to living life without you around…”
It’s a story all too familiar. I lived through this exact script, falling deeply, madly in love with a woman who – despite mirroring my affection – felt it best to move just a little bit over 4,000 miles away for reasons that I still struggle to fathom. It took me years to even begin to let go of her, the concept of us and all of the potential I saw in our future. Then, the day that I picked up Trouble Will Find Me from a local record store, and had more than just a few flashbacks/breakdowns during ‘Pink Rabbits’, she shows up at my front door after three years of silence. I swear to god you can’t make this stuff up. Without divulging my entire life story, I’ll just say that by the time she came back, I was dating my now wife – and her proposal to start anew was simply out of the question. But that whole portion of my life will forever be tied to this song – the depression, the longing, the return, and the bittersweet feeling that whatever was once possible is no longer viable.
Whew. Nobody asked for that story, but that’s what happens when you listen to The National. Things get deeply personal; connections are made and memories forever imprinted in our brains thanks to their inimitable brand of emotional indie-rock. You could pick a song out of a hat and chances are there’s someone out there with a story just like mine, ready to rattle off at a moment’s notice because the connection is that strong. Forget song of the decade, should we just crown them band of the decade?