Matt Berninger (Book/Concord)

As the needle drops on Serpentine Prison, the smooth baritone is immediately recognizable as The National vocalist, Matt Berninger. What’s different from the music that Berninger makes with “the mothership” is the arrangements are starker, with a more organic feel, and the subject matter are topics much more personal to the singer.


“For a long time, I had been writing songs for movies and musicals and other projects where I needed to get inside someone’s head and convey another person’s feelings,” Berninger explains. “I liked doing that but I was ready to dig back into my own garbage and this was the first thing that came out.”


The album starts out proving Berninger’s point, with the lyric, “My eyes are t-shirts, they’re so easy to read. I wear them for you but they’re all about me,” opening a song (“My Eyes Are T-Shirts”) about desire and solitude, themes that continue through the rest of this beautiful, poetic and revealing work. The soulful writing continues as the album addresses the complicated nature of relationships, exposing the uncertainty with which the narrator approaches them. A few highlights from this brilliant record include “Distant Axis,” the slinky Blues of “Loved So Little,” the “teaser” and title track, “Serpentine Prison,” and album’s standout tune, which is also the “official” first single, “One More Second.”


Matt Berninger’s Serpentine Prison has been creeping onto the JBE chart since the song “Serpentine Prison” was teased in the Spring, with The Current, Colorado Sound, WFUV, Indie 102.3, Birmingham Mountain Radio, KGSR, KROK, WTMD and KTBG just a few of the stations to spin a track or two. Expect that list to grow considerably once the September 28 official add date for “One More Second” is upon us.


Photo by Chris Sgroi

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