Song of the Week: Matt Berninger – “Serpentine Prison”

The National frontman finds new subtleties in his solo performance.

The National is a band that thrives on building small intricacies into room-filling, soul-encompassing compositions. Whether it’s orchestral arrangements, glitchy electronics or straightforward rock instrumentation, the five-piece is masterful at creating uplifting moments as well as moody pieces to fall into. For Matt Berninger’s first foray into a solo project though, he lets the nuances of the music breathe and stand on their own.

There was a lot of curiosity of how Berninger’s work would distinguish itself from his daytime band. While “Serpentine Prison” operates in the same realm as The National, this song is looser and calmer than them. There’s less underlying tension and more of a focus on letting the notes gently cradle Berninger’s voice. Different collaborators, led by producer Booker T. Jones, also give the song its own flavor. But it’s filled with great lyrics that stick in your head, like “Nobody’s ever really thinking about us/Half as much as we want them to be.” It’s exciting to both hear what new musical touches Berninger puts on his solo debut, while also keeping his familiar vocals and excellent lyrics intact.

Berninger’s first album under his own name, Serpentine Prison, is out on Oct. 2 via Book Records.