Brett Brownell

Brett Brownell

Multimedia Producer

Brett Brownell is the Multimedia Producer at Mother Jones and has visited all 50 states. He also helped launch MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes as a video and web producer, served as new media director for the employee rights organization Workplace Fairness, and founded the annual global photography event Worldwide Moment in 2007. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-T.V. and grew up in Arlington, Texas.

Get my RSS |

Watch: San Francisco Celebrates Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act Decisions

| Wed Jun. 26, 2013 5:00 PM EDT

Hundreds gathered at San Francisco's City Hall this morning to witness announcements of the Supreme Court's historic rulings which overturned California's Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California in 2008, began its path to the Supreme Court with the help of San Francisco city attorneys. On August 19, 2009 the City and County of San Francisco joined as coplaintiffs challenging the Prop 8 ballot measure. Watch as city officials greet the crowd and gay couples celebrate their renewed right to marry in California.

Note: There were audio recording issues during the final interview, most likely caused by jubilant celebration.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

The National's "Trouble Will Find Me"—Place on Repeat

| Mon May 20, 2013 5:30 AM EDT
The National
Photo by Deirdre O'Callaghan

You know how when you get a song stuck in your head, you're not always sure how it burrowed its way in there? Well, people who attended The National's May 5 performance at New York's MoMA PS1 museum can be pretty damned sure. Over a six-hour period, the band played "Sorrow," off its 2010 release, High Violet, 105 times in a row.

The special performance, aptly dubbed "A Lot of Sorrow," was technically a work created by the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson as part of his ongoing "explorations into the potential of repetitive performance to produce sculptural presence within sound."

The following clip, supposedly starting around 2 hours and 40 minutes into the show, includes three of the repetitions.

During a Reddit AMA three days later, a band member reflected:

Actually as the hours went on I think we all realized that this experience was something special for us—there was a weird hypnotic resonance and spirituality to repeating the song over and over. We almost didn't want to stop and we learned something about our capacity for endurance and the song opened up in surprising ways...By the end it didn't feel like we were playing it anymore. We know the idea seemed pretentious in some way, but Ragnar has this mix of humor and sadness that feels quite similar to what our songs about...We're very glad to have done it.

This week, The National, follows up its hypnotic performance with the release of Trouble Will Find Me, their sixth studio album, on the 4AD label.

Trouble Will Find Me Album Cover
Trouble Will Find Me

Trouble... is replete with the usual mix of sorrow, longing, depression, and nearly infrasonic tone of singer Matt Berninger's voice that fans of The National have come to know and love. But some of the tracks still provide you with the opportunity to rock out, lest you need a break from your whimpering.

For example, there's "Sea of Love," the video of which the band premiered during its AMA. A fan had asked, "What is your guys' favourite music video?" Whereupon the band replied, craftily, "Actually there's one video that we all really love, so we made this homage." They revealed the link to the new video. And the sleuthing promptly began for the original.

A single-take shot in a sparse, nondescript room, with nothing but a dangling microphone, air-conditioning unit, and boy wandering in from off-screen: It didn't look familiar.

Nor should it. It mimics a video for a song first released in 1995—in Russia—by Soviet-era punk band Zvuki Mu. The song title, "Grubiy Zakat," means "Rough Sunset." Check it out:


Bryce Dessner, who plays guitar for The National, told PRI's The World that he "fell in love with it immediately" when he first saw the video on YouTube. "We have to do something like this," he told his bandmates.

They reached out to Zvuki Mu, but were unable to track down any of its members. Obviously, that didn't deter them from making their own version.

Next up for The National: a vinyl version of their six-hour MoMA performance for charity. Seriously.

If the new album, epic vinyl repetition party, and homage to a Soviet video aren't enough for you, you can get more of The National in movie form. Singer Matt Berninger's brother Tom was brought on tour as a roadie and ended up making a haphazard documentary about the band called Mistaken for Strangers. If you can make it to Australia by June, you can catch the next screening at the Sydney Film Festival. I'll leave you with the trailer.

Tue Apr. 15, 2014 6:00 AM EDT
Fri Apr. 11, 2014 6:00 AM EDT
Wed Aug. 28, 2013 6:00 AM EDT
Thu Aug. 22, 2013 6:00 AM EDT
Tue Jul. 9, 2013 2:38 PM EDT
Fri Jun. 28, 2013 10:18 PM EDT
Mon Apr. 29, 2013 6:00 AM EDT
Fri Mar. 15, 2013 8:19 PM EDT
Thu Mar. 14, 2013 6:00 AM EDT
Mon Feb. 4, 2013 7:06 AM EST
Tue Nov. 20, 2012 7:03 AM EST