Apartment Story – The National (2007)

Apartment Story was released as the second single from Brooklyn-based indie rock band The National‘s fourth studio album Boxer. For me Boxer was my first real taste of the band remains their most special album. It teeters on the precipice of the bands break-through to more mainstream success and feels like it was the point where the band first found it’s true legs; it has swagger and confidence without having had an ego stroked by public adoration just yet.

Apartment Story speaks of hiding away in a world of your own, perhaps even of burying one’s head in the sand and enjoying the bliss of ignorance. And while Matt Berringer prefers leaving an opaqueness to the meanings of his lyrics, to me the song has two duelling, but intertwining narratives:
A wilful disdain for responsibility or care for the world around, a resignation to the blur of alcoholism to forget “Stay inside till somebody finds us / Do whatever the TV tells us / Stay inside our rosy-minded fuzz for days”. And then the problematic romance found in co-dependence; of hiding away from the rest of the world with another just as damaged – enabling each others mania and downward spirals “We’ll stay inside till somebody finds us / Do whatever the TV tells us.” and “Hold ourselves together / With our arms around the stereo for hours”.

Musically, Apartment Story is a distant fuzzy rumble of distorted guitars augmented with solemn sounding organs and a stoic motorik rhythm that just never seems to stop driving.

Then drunken, slurred “La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la” just after the aforementioned arms around the stereo sums up that feeling of being simultaneously emboldened and passionate enough to sing along but not giving a fuck enough to know the words. It’s a condition, I think we all have found ourselves in at least once.

The B-side of the single is a live recording of The National performing “Mansion on the Hill,” originally recorded by Bruce Springsteen on his 1982 album Nebraska. The band’s cover version was recorded live on January 14, 2006 at the opening night of that year’s New York Guitar Festival.

The music video was directed by Banner Gwin. It was filmed in the basement of a church a few blocks from Berninger’s Brooklyn apartment, and features the band’s friends and family as extras. Berninger said the band “wanted to capture the sweet but awkward vibe of a wedding reception or singles mixer.”