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Alternative & Indie - Released May 17, 2019 | 4AD

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This eighth album from The National is refreshingly different, somewhat modifying the well-oiled mechanics of this American band. First and foremost, this is achieved through the presence of several female singers who support the leader Matt Berninger on most of the tracks. The most memorable are the performances of Gail Ann Dorsey (David Bowie’s bassist) on Had Your Soul With You, as well as the particularly poignant performances of Lisa Hannigan and Mina Tindle on So Far So East and Oblivions respectively, the latter being especially moving. Why this sudden feminine presence for an exclusively male band? It’s likely because the album was conceived after filmmaker Mike Mills asked The National to put his short film I Am Easy to Find into song form - a film which happens to be centred around a woman. It’s this relationship to images that has somewhat upended the Brooklyn band’s pop formula. There are a few references to some classics of cinema, chiefly Roman Holiday by William Wyler (1953). But apart from the new cinematic release, fans of The National will still find the legendary melancholy of the group in both the lyrics and the music. The presence of heart-wrenching strings on all the tracks (with the exception of the staccato violins on Where Is Her Head) as well as a recurring introspective piano (notably in the beautiful Light Years) will particularly be remembered. Bryan Devendorf’s singular rhythms plays on contrasts, occasionally making striking jerks (Rylan, The Pull of You) as well as adding a sensual flair (Hairpin Turns, I Am Easy to Find). © Nicolas Magenham/Qobuz  
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 17, 2019 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 22, 2010 | 4AD

The National have worn a lot of hats since their 2001 debut, but they’ve never been able to shake the rural, book-smart, quiet malevolence of the Midwest. The Brooklyn-groomed, Ohio-bred indie rock quintet’s fifth full-length album navigates that lonely dirt road where swagger meets desperation like a seasoned tour guide, and while it may take a few songs to get going, there are treasures to be found for patient passengers. The National's profile rose considerably after 2007’s critically acclaimed The Boxer, and they have used that capital to craft a flawed gem of a record that highlights their strengths and weaknesses with copious amounts of red ink. High Violet oozes atmosphere, but moves at a snail’s pace. The Cousteau-esque “Terrible Love” hardly bursts out of the gate, and the subsequent “Sorrow” and “Anyone’s Ghost” (despite Bryan Devendorf’s locomotive drumming) lack the hooks to reel anybody in on first listen. The album begins to take shape on “Afraid of Everyone,” a slow-build midtempo rocker that expertly utilizes the Clogs’ (guitarist Bryce Dessner's other chamber pop band) prickly orchestrations, but it’s the punishing “Bloodbuzz Ohio” that serves as High Violet's centerpiece. Built on a foundation that fuses together TV on the Radio's “Halfway Home” and Arcade Fire's “No Cars Go,” its refrain of “I still owe money to the money, to the money I owe” seems both relevant and nostalgic, resulting in a highway anthem that feels like the anti-“Born to Run.” Other standout cuts like “Conversation 16,” “England," and the darkly funny/oddly beautiful closer, “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks,” trumpet Violet’s second-half supremacy, but even they tremble beneath the "Bloodbuzz" intoxication. Muscular, miserable, mighty, and meandering, High Violet aims for the seats, but only hits about half of them. ~ James Christopher Monger
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 11, 2005 | Beggars Banquet

The National may sound like a garage band turned down, but there's as much primal energy lurking behind Alligator as in any mop-topped group of city kids with bloodstained Danelectros in a dusty warehouse. While Matt Berninger's lyrics and conversational delivery rely heavily on the kind of literate self-absorption that fuels so much of the indie rock scene today, he never comes off as preachy or unaware that the world would manage just fine without him; rather, he uses metaphor and humor as bullet points for a profound sense of displacement and anger. Out-of-the-blue statements like "f*ck me and make me a drink," from the brooding but lovely "Karen," are effective because the listener is brought into the story slowly, almost amiably, before being led to the plank. Berninger's wry, filthy, and often eloquently sad tales of materialism, sex, and loneliness are augmented by the stellar duel-sibling attack of Aaron Dessner (guitar) and Bryce Dessner (guitar) and Scott Devendorf (guitar/bass) and Bryan Devendorf (drums), who flesh out each track with so many little creative flourishes that it takes a few listens to break them down into palatable portions. There are upbeat moments found within -- "Lit Up" and "Looking for Astronauts" -- but for the most part the National are content with playing the genial fatalists, and while "All the Wine" seems designed to serve as the record's desolate backbone, "Baby, We'll Be Fine," with its quick changes, lush orchestration, and winsome refrain of "I'm so sorry for everything" is, despite an elegiac delivery, Alligator's loneliest track, and like each part of this fine collection of city-weary poetry, it's as brief as it is affecting. ~ James Christopher Monger
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 8, 2017 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 13, 2018 | 4AD

Formed in 1999, The National is composed of Matt Berninger, the Dessnet brothers and the Devendorf brothers. In 2007, the band from Ohio released one of their greatest albums, the fourth: Boxer. Eleven years later, they bring it back into the spotlight with this live recorded in Brussels and perform the entirety of the disc. But yielding to increasing demands, The National also opted for an official release. Faithful to the first version, the band keeps almost the same visual for the cover, a picture of them on stage at the wedding of producer Peter Katis. The quintet perfectly perform here from beginning to end, for a faithful and responsive audience. Opening with Fake Empire, a small musical prowess of which we like the destructured aspect, mainly in the association of pop keyboards playing off-beat with Berninger’s voice. An obvious alchemy with Brainy on which the guitars, the bass and the drum perfectly harmonize in some kind of musical discussion. Up to the last track Gospel, there is some sort of hypnotic charm at play, notably thanks to the contrast of this deep voice on a light and intense melody. © Anna Coluthe/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 22, 2007 | Beggars Banquet

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 20, 2013 | 4AD

Upon first spin, Trouble Will Find Me, the warm, wistful, and weary sixth long-player from the National, sounds a lot like 2010's warm, wistful, and weary High Violet, but where the former was built on a foundation of suburban despondency and casual, middle class self-destruction (and skillfully juggled melodrama and dark comedy), the latter feels mired in regret, seeking refuge in the arms of old friends and lost lovers, sounding for all the world like a single cube of ice lazily swirling about a recently drained tumbler of single malt scotch, a notion best intoned on early album standout "Demons," which casually announces "I am secretly in love with everyone I grew up with." Like nausea, nostalgia can arrive in waves, and Trouble Will Find Me's best moments -- the propulsive "Don't Swallow the Cap" and the one-two sucker punch of pre-set closers "Humiliation" and "Pink Rabbits" -- find Matt Berninger and his laconic baritone nervously pacing the deck of a sinking ship while simultaneously trying to find his sea legs as his bandmates constantly pull the rug out from under him with familiar rhythms and melodies that hide countless trap doors. However, it's that very familiarity that fuels the ire of many of the band's detractors, especially those who consider them to be a slightly creepier, American Coldplay, and while there is definitely an intangible, Mad Men-esque sense of unease that permeates Trouble Will Find Me, one could hardly use the words dangerous or forward-thinking when dissecting its myriad parts. That said, this is the band that performed a chilling rendition of the George R.R. Martin-penned "Rains of Castamere" over the closing credits of the season two finale of Game of Thrones. For better or for worse, they perfected their sound the last time around, so it’s hard to fault them for sticking so close to the fire, especially on such a snowy night. ~ James Christopher Monger
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 11, 2010 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 6, 2009 | Brassland

For a band that's been compared to Joy Division, Leonard Cohen, Wilco, and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, the National sure sounds a lot more like the Czars or Uncle Tupelo on this sophomore album Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers. Where the band might lack Joy Division's angular fury, Cohen's existentialism, and Cave's vampiric attack, vocalist Matt Berninger and company whip up a murky alt country meets chamber pop vibe that's quite potent. The five-piece mostly keeps things on the country side of the fence during the album's first half, as slide guitars and fiddles overpower just about any hint of rock styling except the drumbeat, occasional feedback, and some screeching guitar freak-outs. Toward the album's close, the songs' textures finally shift from country to indie rock. Berninger is more than content to roam pastures featuring small patches of emo, sadcore, and artsy strings, clearly wearing his influences on his sleeve. Indeed, album-opener "Cardinal Song" could very easily be mistaken for the Tindersticks or Cousteau, with a passage that is a virtual note for note reconstruction of a Red House Painters song. Though the band focuses on slow atmospheric songs, it's when it kicks out the jams that the music is the most compelling. Case in point is "Slipping Husband," with its fine melodic waves and a perfectly placed bout of screaming. "Trophy Wife" presents yet another influence; the song seems a dead ringer for the Shins. It's hard to shake the feeling that the National is highly influenced by and studied in the bands it emulates, but the album is still worth a listen for fans of moody country-tinged lounge music. With so many influences rearing their heads and ample musical chops in the bag, the National might not be masters of any one genre, but it creates a fine amalgam nonetheless. ~ Tim DiGravina
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Rock - Released July 3, 2001 | Brassland

This Ohio-based band strikes a lush, adorable balance between the country-pop of bands such as Jayhawks and Golden Smog and the gloomy, depressing crooning of Tom Waits. Lead singer Matt Berninger manages to transcend leveling the fine background with some reflection and introspection on "Cold Girl Fever" and "Watching You Well." The country hues touched on in "American Mary" are only surpassed by the album's perfect song "Theory of the Crows," a morbid waltz through loneliness and loss. Throughout it all, the band manages not only to exceed their pigeonholed genres but gives a fresh perspective with brilliantly crafted numbers. Starting up where Wilco left off with their Summerteeth album, the group delivers a generous heaping of Americana and alt-country. Brilliant. ~ Jason MacNeil
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 3, 2014 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 6, 2009 | Brassland

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 20, 2008 | Beggars Banquet

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 29, 2005 | Beggars Banquet

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 28, 2005 | Beggars Banquet

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