The National

The most polite indie rock you’ll ever hear…

The National at Brooklyn Academy of Music This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Attribution: Thepeoplesuck at English Wikipedia

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Every post on this site is meant to be a constantly evolving diary of my musical views. Therefore, any and all posts should be considered incomplete at any given time.

The National is a great indie rock story! I can remember when these guys were C-listers, and then B-listers, and then all of a sudden, BOXER happened, and ever since, they’ve shot past A-list indie-dom into indie royalty.

And yeah, Boxer and High Violet are both masterpieces. However, ever since, High Violet, they’ve been floundering artistically, unable to find that new direction that would really expand their sound. 

Here are some thoughts on The National’s discography…


The National self-titled album cover

The National

Release Year: 2001
My Rating: C+

While they weren't quite the great indie band that they'd later become, there are little flashes of SOMETHING here, mostly due to Matt Berninger's outstanding baritone.


The National Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers album cover

Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers

Release Year: 2003
My Rating: B

This one's kinda upbeat, at least in feel, and a definite step forward from their debut. It's not quite up to the level of their later work, but the progression is clear.

HIGHLIGHTS: "Trophy Wife", "Patterns of Fairytales"

The National Alligator album cover


Release Year: 2005
My Rating: A-

Great record, maybe a bit of filler here and there, but when The National find a groove, they ride it like no one else. A fine slab of Chamber Rock.

HIGHLIGHTS: "Daughters of the SoHo Riots", "All the Wine", "Abel", "Mr. November"

The National Boxer album cover


Release Year: 2007
My Rating: A

Like a spiritual successor to Simon & Garfunkel's song of the same name, this one sports that haunting sense of urban loneliness that Interpol achieved on their debut LP, but never did again. It's undoubtedly a masterpiece.

HIGHLIGHTS:"Fake Empires", "Mistaken For Strangers", "Green Gloves"

The National High Violet album cover

High Violet

Release Year: 2010
My Rating: A+

Goodness, "Sorrow" is one harrowing song. If it weren't so damned beautiful, I don't know that I could listen to it. Some incredible power in that one track. As for the rest of the album, pretty amazing as well.

HIGHLIGHTS:"Terrible Love", "Sorrow", "Anyone's Ghost", "Bloodbuzz Ohio", "Conversation 16"

The National Trouble Will Find Me album cover

Trouble Will Find Me

Release Year: 2013
My Rating: B

Often beautiful in the same aesthetic as High Violet, but too little differentiation. I know we fans can complain when bands make an amazing record and then make a sudden drastic change, but too often this just feels like a bunch of songs that didn't make the cut for the previous record. Again, that ain't horrible, but it leaves something to be desired.

HIGHLIGHTS: "I Should Live In Salt", "Demons", "Heavenfaced", "Humiliation"

The National Sleep Well Beast album cover

Sleep Well Beast

Release Year: 2017
My Rating: A-

OK, they expand the sonic palette here a good bit, and the results are pretty swell! "The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness" sounds like a Philip K. Dick short story title. Fitting.

HIGHLIGHTS: "Walk It Back", "The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness", "Empire Line", "I'll Still Destroy You"

The National I Am Easy To Find album cover

I Am Easy To Find

Release Year: 2019
My Rating: C+

The concept here: each track has a female guest vocalist to duet with Matt Berninger. The problem here: nothing really stands out. It all feels very National-istic (see what I did there). Overproduced? Yeah, I think so. Indie bands need to remember that part of their appeal is that scrappy aesthetic. Hopefully The National will do so in time for LP9.

HIGHLIGHTS: "I Am Easy To Find", "Not In Kansas", "Rylan"


The National Cherry Tree EP album cover

Cherry Tree EP

Release Year: 2004
My Rating: B+

Very solid EP. You can hear that National sound coming together, finding its stride.


The National The Virginia EP album cover

The Virginia EP

Release Year: 2004
My Rating: B-

Not bad, but nothing particularly special. However, I'd LOVE it if they covered the whole of Springsteen's Nebraska. That would be a real treat.

HIGHLIGHTS: "Mansion On The Hill"


coming soon…

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Here’s my totally scientific method for grading albums. I’m sure you’ll find it revolutionary:

  • A+: CLASSIC album – I revere this bad boy.
  • A: GREAT album – a repeat listener from start to finish.
  • B: GOOD album – I’ll probably listen again at some point.
  • C: MEH album – not awful, but I have no desire to listen again.
  • D: BAD album – not sure why anyone would listen to this.
  • F: TRULY AWFUL album – monumentally bad and offense against music.

Gradations between letters (A-/B+/B-/C+) simply indicate it’s somwhere between the two letters.