Serpentine Prison

Matt Berninger - Serpentine Prison
Critic Score
Based on 23 reviews
2020 Ratings: #294 / 672
User Score
Based on 118 ratings
2020 Ratings: #397
Liked by 6 people
October 16, 2020 / Release Date
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CRITIC REVIEWS

100
Record Collector

It’s a stunning record – from the album artwork down to the perfectly-weighted running order, nothing is out of place and nothing jars. Matt Berninger didn’t want to write a solo record. But thank god he did.

90
Louder Than War
It’s powerful, intimate stuff, and it feels like a man unburdening his soul in a therapy session, which is what all great music is if you delve deeply enough inside.
87
Paste
Berninger has always been a skilled lyricist, but on this project he zeroes in on personal relationships with much more intensity.
85
The Line of Best Fit

The echoes of his home band are clear, but there’s also an underlying feeling of something greater at play - the proof that he can cut it as a name as much as he can a band, and Serpentine Prison is Matt Berninger’s artistic truth and joy.

80
Uncut
Though less avidly adventurous than his band's recent outings (or his own past activities with EL VY), the music here may be stronger for it.
80
Mojo
He may have built a prison completely of his own imagination, but in many ways, Matt Berninger has never sounded so free.
80
Northern Transmissions

Stark, weirdly comforting, bruised and beautiful, ‘Serpentine Prison’ is like being given access to Berninger’s private diary where you’re allowed to view his most intimate thoughts and secrets.

80
musicOMH

The result is something that should please fans of The National as it’s not exactly a million miles away from his main band’s output, although there is a more laid back feel to the collection as less of the limelight is shared with others.

80
DIY
As with The National, Matt’s brilliantly obtuse way with words swirls into frame frequently.
80
NME
The singer takes in rich influences for a deep, intimate listen to be filed next to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' ‘Boatman’s Call’ and Leonard Cohen’s ‘You Want It Darker’.
80
The Independent
The gravity of his baritone voice is bolstered by tasteful instrumentation from a host of guest performers including Andrew Bird and Scott Devendorf.
80
Loud and Quiet
It’s some of his most carefree and heartfelt work for years – that’s pretty much all we could ask for.
80
American Songwriter

If Berninger intended to establish an imprint beyond his day job, he certainly succeeded here. Once Serpentine Prison opens its doors, visitors will likely find it hard to leave.

75
Consequence of Sound

Serpentine Prison isn’t the drastic change of pace that many frontmen create when they do a project outside of their main band, but it does enough to justify itself as separate from The National’s catalog.

73
Beats Per Minute

Serpentine Prison shows us something we already knew: Berninger shines when the focus is on him.

71
Spectrum Culture
A tasteful, stately affair that, at its best, resonates with the same emotional directness and honesty that we’ve come to expect from Berninger.
70
AllMusic

Taken together, it's a sequestered, rainy Sunday type of album with flawed, world-weary vocal performances that are laid bare by such impressionistic accompaniment.

70
Exclaim!

For a solo debut, Serpentine Prison seems like a natural first step and a safe bet for both the artist's individual ambitions and the comfort of existing fans.

67
Pitchfork

The National frontman’s solo debut unwinds the nervous energy in favor of something more laid-back. The music is gorgeous and unfussy, but his performances and lyrics feel nondescript.

60
Slant Magazine

These songs easily fade into the background, not unlike those found on so many adult contemporary-influenced singer-songwriter albums. But while Serpentine Prison may invoke familiar accusations of dullness, it’s refreshing to hear Berninger’s disaffected songwriting style take on a more grown-up perspective.

60
PopMatters

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.

60
Rolling Stone

The National frontman’s gorgeous solo debut leans into his band’s core sound while emphasizing what makes him unique.

MRusso98
88
I'm in love with everything from this record. I've always been a big fan of Matt Berninger's voice in his The National experience. Sometimes for a great album you don't need to do anything too difficult, just pick up a guitar, play the piano and start singing a few songs. Serpentine Prison is the perfect example of that, the simplicity will always win.

FAVORITE TRACK: One More Second
Doofy
73
It's no classic and as others have suggested this release is something of a throwback to the acoustic dominated 'Cherry Tree'. I do rate this slightly higher than that EP - but that's not because Berninger has developed into a more successful purveyor of melody, nor is he a better song writer than back then (nothing on this album equals 'About Today' for a start).

No, what Matt has improved on over the years are first and foremost his lyrics, which at this stage have relaxed and blossomed into ... read more
notanalt
70
Recite the callings of love and pain, my jolly good fellow.
landlalt
79
no fucking way man
nicoperagine
57
I'm not crazy about it. His voice could use a bit of work, I like it but the lower register just sounds unnatural. The production is often pretty while being a bit boring. Lyrics are possibly the highlight but nothing that really sticks with me. Altogether it is just very average.

Color: Green
Favorite Tracks: None!
Worst Tracks: None!
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Track List

  1. My Eyes Are T-Shirts
  2. Distant Axis
  3. One More Second
  4. Loved So Little
  5. Silver Springs (feat. Gail Ann Dorsey)
  6. Oh Dearie
  7. Take Me Out of Town
  8. Collar of Your Shirt
  9. All for Nothing
  10. Serpentine Prison
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Added on: October 18, 2019