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Editors’ Notes

Brooklyn’s The National perform orchestrated nightclub folk-pop that could comfortably sit besides Leonard Cohen, Lee Hazlewood and the Tindersticks on the shelf of modern day existentialists. Singer Matt Berninger’s lyrics convey a sense of a looming mid-life crisis exacerbated by the successful yet soulless corporate climbing going on around him. “I’m a professional in my beloved white shirt,” he sings with a trace of bitterness. But while the world around them smacks of greater indifference, the National plunge headfirst into maintaining the signature vibe that made their previous album, Alligator, such an alluring call to arms. Trumpet and piano accentuate the group’s ambient chug. Drummer Bryan Devendorf, in particular, takes charge, stubbornly churning against the band’s smoother textures. Yet, despite the anxiety and tension, Berninger soldiers on with his elusive baritone skipping through the lyrics, sprinkling his learned, romantic syntax on these social critiques. “Mistaken for Strangers,” “Squalor Victoria,” “Racing Like A Pro,” the highlights sneak in and out, flowing past at first unnoticed, but over time adding a cumulative weight that upon closer inspection reveal quite a commentary on the disparate economic classes living side by side.

Customer Reviews

Plant album in rotation, water daily, watch it grow on you.

The National are not conventional, you cannot breeze over this, it's too clever. Because after several times of constant listening, you will on chance see a random word, hear a random note, and then without realizing it you can't get one of these tunes to leave you alone. Songs on this album that were at one point less than desireable completely open up to you when you on a whim and you realize just how magnificent the lyircs are, how characteristic the guitar is, how pounding the drums sound. And then my friend, you will be hooked, and keep coming back for more.


This album feels like a solo, midnight car ride. It's one of those rare pieces that doesn't drop its hold on you through all 14 tracks. Sacrifices initial listenability, simplicity and overall general appeal for layered and efficient sounds, rich vocals and lyrics that strike deep. For anyone who tries to find music that puts their wandering thoughts into beautiful poetry.

The sound

I started listening to the National with Alligator, an amazing album. I got my hands on some of their older material, just wanting more of their music. Well now the wait is over, and they have delivered the goods again. The sound is a little more subdued than Alligator, with less of the focus on the guitars. However, the band incorporates piano this time around. Bryan Devendorf's drumming is better than ever, and provides a nice counter to Matt Berninger's dreary baritone. Overall, it's another incredible album for The National.


Formed: 1999 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Although formed during the post-punk revival of the late '90s, the National took inspiration from a wider set of influences, including country-rock, Americana, indie rock, and Brit-pop. The lineup began taking shape in Ohio and officially cemented itself in New York, with baritone vocalist Matt Berninger joining forces with two sets of brothers — Scott (bass) and Bryan Devendorf (drums), and Aaron (guitar) and Bryce Dessner (guitar). After establishing themselves as a live act, the bandmates...
Full Bio