From their formative days in Cincinnati to the dizzy heights of Bloodbuzz Ohio, here’s a chronological guide to The National‘s catalogue to date.
The National (2001)
Their self-titled debut rippled the consciousness of few, but for those who heard it, boded well for the Cincinnati outfit. It showcases an Americana influence not revisited substantially on any of the band’s successive releases. It’s comparably inconsistent and the lyrics don’t visit the same depths of Berninger’s more recent work, though it boasts promise amongst a few notable tracks.
Choice Cut: Theory of the Crows
Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers (2003)
This excellent second album was the beginning of their fruitful relationship with producer Peter Katis and the first to rubber-stamp The National’s trademark sound. All at once funny, paranoid and self-deprecating, Sad Songs… is perhaps the most immediate album the band have released to date.
Choice Cut: Fashion Coat
The album that brought The National to our attention, Alligator stands up as one of the most intricate, beautiful and compelling indie releases of our time. Matt Berninger’s abstract yet poetic snippets, sometimes screamed, sometimes crooned, are like daggers through the layered, almost symphonic arrangements of his band.
Choice Cut: Daughters of the Soho Riots
We were worried about how they would follow up Alligator, but there really was no need; more restrained, but arguably more musically sophisticated, Boxer is a lavish, self-contained masterpiece. As with most of their work, this one requires patience, but the rewards are bountiful. Boxer’s critical praise was reflected in its commercial success. Having played Nice ‘n’ Sleazy when they were last in town, suddenly they were selling out the ABC.
Choice Cut: Fake Empire
High Violet (2010)
It seems criminal to attempt an appraisal of High Violet so early, but even after a month in its company, it’s abundantly clear that this is every bit as brilliant as any of its predecessors. The hooks are stronger, arrangements denser and lyrics as elegantly opaque as ever. Once again, The National have seen our expectations and raised them.
Choice Cut: Bloodbuzz Ohio