When asked if I have a favourite band, I am often reluctant to reply with a straight ‘yes’. Having such a passion for music, I naturally enjoy quite a bit of it, and selecting just one is quite tough. Depending on my mood, the top 5 might alter, but there is one band that will always secure itself in the top three: The National. My first exposure to The National was Christmas at my friend’s. Her family has always had great taste, and definitely did not play your typical seasonal tunes. Among the strange and wonderful tracks that hummed its way through their kitchen speakers I heard About Today off The National’s 2004 EP Cherry Tree. This was a lyrically simple song—at least compared to the majority of their songs which lack no complexity, however I instantly fell in love with Berninger’s dark, seductive voice. I asked my friend if she had any more of this magic, to which she replied simply with a smile and directed me to a stack of records.
The National’s first album was self titled, and released back in 2001 still has quite the impressive track listing. Although more raw, The National is still an album worth checking out, particularly if you are in the mood for some solid cynical tunes. My favourites off this release would have to be Anna Freud—great to sing along—The Perfect Song—truly the perfect song if you are in a less than great mood—and Bitters & Absolut—great if you’re feeling like some wit.
Their 2003 release Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers is certainly a go-to for some melancholic tunes filled with brilliant musical interludes. Including my favourite of their heavier tracks, Available is loaded with just the right dose of sarcastic anger.
Their 2005 release Alligator has a sold set of both musically and lyrically strong songs. Starting with Secret Meeting, you are introduced to the album with something both catchy and clever. One of my favourites to date, the chorus is bound to loop in your head on repeat as Berninger repeats “And so and now I’m sorry I missed you, I had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain. It went the dull and wicked ordinary way”.
My absolute favourite album thus far would have to be Boxer. Ranked for me as one of the few albums I have probably never ever skipped a single track ever, this 2007 album has the perfect blend of bold, orchestral, heavy music with lulling vocals and staggering lyrics. I wouldn’t even know how to recommend one track off the album, but would simply suggest to start here, listen to the entire album, and then explore away. If you are feeling less trusting, then starting with Fake Empire is probably a good choice. From the piano to the pronounced drums, trumpet and swooning lyrics it is a sure win. If you are in the mood for something a tad darker and slightly more mysterious, then I would lean towards Brainy.