12 Songs, 51 Minutes

1 4:39 Album Only
2 4:31 Album Only
3 5:59 Album Only
3:56 Album Only
5 4:22 Album Only
6 3:00 Album Only
7 5:23 Album Only
8 5:15 Album Only
5:38 Album Only
10 3:33 Album Only
11 4:50 Album Only

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5

51 Ratings

Beauty and the Beast


This single bodes extremely well for things to come. Somehow the arrangement and textures achieve both precision and abandon. These dudes are locked in, focused, and creative. The beast sleeps well indeed.

"I can't explain it...", but I'll try.

A critic's critic,

Words could never do justice to the superior quality of music that this band never fails to produce. With the exceptions of Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, and Sigur Ros, this band has no equal in the indie world in regards to production and song writing. Their unfailing commit to detail and innovation is no "secret" on this track, as key board, guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, piano, and gorgeous background vocals simultaneously shine individually, while also complementing and interweaving into Matt's brooding vocals. A song writing trick that the national have mastered and appears in this song, is the use an additional refrain section that appears later on in the song. After the verse and chorus are established, the unexpected refrain, "I can't explain it...", comes out of nowhere, and ends up being the gorgeous highlight and finish of this song. The vibe of "The System" is more experimental, and brings Aaron's sharp riff-based guitar to the forefront of the mix - a welcome change in my opinion. The production has more of the muscle and punch of "Boxer", but still retains the nuance and detail of "High Violet." In short, the National's streak of unfailing consistency, and engrossing depth of quality continues, and this song will prove to be a new classic amongst the other new classics to come. Bottom line: This is a "System" I actually want to be a part of. And "I can't explain it any other way."

About The National

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 made their studio debut with The National, a self-titled record that appeared in 2001 to considerable acclaim. Two years later, the band returned with Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers, a deft blending of alternative country and chamber pop that found the band partnering with producer Peter Katis.

The National continued working with Katis throughout the rest of the decade. Following the release of an EP, Cherry Tree, in 2004, the band signed with Beggars Banquet and released Alligator. Although sales were modest, Alligator proved to be one of the year's most critically approved releases. Released in 2007, Boxer, an ambitious effort that featured orchestration by the Clogs' Padma Newsome and piano by Sufjan Stevens, fared similarly well. It also became the band's first album to chart fairly well, peaking at number 67 on the Billboard 200.

A documentary by French filmmaker Vincent Moon was released in 2008, capturing the band during the Boxer recording sessions. That same year, the National released The Virginia EP, a collection of new material and various B-sides, and began working on a new studio album with Katis. High Violet appeared two years later, earning the guys the highest marks of their career and going gold in multiple countries. Trouble Will Find Me, the group's sixth long-player, was issued in 2013 and featured guest appearances from Sharon Van Etten, Sufjan Stevens, Dark Dark Dark's Nona Marie Invie, St. Vincent, Doveman, and Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Perry. The Grammy-nominated album peaked at the number three slot on the Billboard 200. In 2015, the group issued a limited-edition nine-LP box set entitled Lot of Sorrow. The set chronicled the group's epic 2013 MoMA-hosted performance art collaboration with Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, which saw the band perform the song "Sorrow" (from High Violet) for six straight hours (105 times).

In 2017, the band returned with "The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness," the first single from their seventh set, Sleep Well Beast.

In addition to their work with the National, Bryan and Scott Devendorf have their own project, an experimental rock trio called LNZNDRF with Beirut trombonist Ben Lanz. Bryan Devendorf also plays in Pfarmers, another avant-indie rock trio featuring Menomena's Danny Seim and trombonist Dave Nelson (David Byrne & St. Vincent). Berninger is one-half of the indie rock duo El Vy, a musical collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Brent Knopf of Menomena and Ramona Falls. ~ Andrew Leahey

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