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The Times Gets The National Stream Right

by Max Willens on April 23, 2010 · 9 comments

Album streams have become an integral part of promoting a new record. Bands stream records from their own websites, NPR offers a couple new albums every week, and as we’ve pointed out, even newspapers are growing less picky about participating in the process.

In general, we think this is a slippery slope for news outlets to move down, and we got a little cute when we posted about the fact that The New York Times is streaming The National’s fifth album, High Violet, today from their Music section.

But after taking a look at what’s on offer, we think the Old Gray Lady got it just right.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better brand-band partnership than the National and the Times. The National, a quintet of middle-aged white collar dudes (one of whom is married to a former editor at The New Yorker) from Ohio currently living in Brooklyn, is essentially comprised of the paper’s core readership.

But the paper clearly views the band as a worthy subject of examination, and they’ve gone well beyond just presenting High Violet. In order to access the stream, you have to open this endearing Times Magazine feature which positions the National as the vanguard of an older, but still worthy paradigm of classic rock songwriting. Luminaries ranging from R.E.M.’s Mike Mills to composer Steve Reich sing the band’s praises, and by the time you get to “Lemonworld,” the deep, warm dirge that beats at the heart of High Violet, you have a sense not only of what it means to the National (“the ugliest, worst-mixed, least-polished song on the record,” according to lead singer Matt Behringer), but of what it says about the band and why they matter to so many people.

The Times made a pretty terrible mistake by not letting their media player open in a new window (I cut off songs in mid-stream several times while reading the feature), but the high quality stereo stream almost makes up for it. It also helps tremendously that High Violet is a fantastic album, and makes you think that maybe the Times, and indeed the rest of the media world, is on to something really special here.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

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robertequus May 7, 2010 at 12:15 pm

I admire The National very much, having first heard them at the Latitude Festival in Henham, Suffolk England a few years ago. When I heard the stream of the new album-High Violet (kindly streamed via the NYT) I was not disappointed by the quality and skill of the band. However one thing did mar this : the muffled sound quality. I put this down to deficits of producing a mass media stream and looked forward to purchasing the CD. Having received the CD the sound still sounds muffled ( as if the speakers were imitating a kazoo) and wonder if this is due to the CD source being taken from a compressed source such as an MP3. I personally prefer high quality analogue recordings to poor digital recordings. The quality of the music making is not in question, to my mind, but the recording is for sure. definitely. is.

MaxWillens May 7, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Thanks for the comment, Robert.

Now, uh, how did you get their CD one week before the album's release?

robertequus May 7, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Max, I pre-ordered it from Amazon UK and it was sent from its sub-division- Indigo -Starfish (?) in Jersey (Channel Islands) . It arrived in today's post.

MaxWillens May 7, 2010 at 3:54 pm

If you say so, you thief.

…Just kidding!

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