I first saw The National on 'Later...with Jools Holland' a few years back. It was one of those late night experiences where you're not sure whether it's the wine but that last band sounded like the best thing since, well, Radiohead. My best friend had had a similar thought and went out to get the album. When he mentioned it to me a few days later it was like remembering something rather hazy, oh so they were as good as I thought.
That album Alligator is great. One of those albums which sounds good when you have the first listen and seems to get better every time you stick it back on the player. Passed around to a few friends it gets the 'oh this is great, who are they?' kind of response.
This year they released a new album Boxer which is fantastic too. The National are a deceptive band. Many people complained that Boxer was too similar to the previous album and on first listen it can appear that way but keep playing it and the subtleties start to appear. Matt Beringer's voice is deep, low and level but carries an emotional punch which sneaks up on you. The full texture of the band's playing is really evident with the headphones on but of course the real revelation is to see them live.
I was lucky enough to catch them at this years Latitude Festival in Suffolk. They almost didn't play because of a problem with their kit (it wasn't there) but with the help of Andrew Bird and The Cold War Kids the show went on. They played an excellent tight set which really lifted the crowd from lazy Sunday afternoon torpor and got things going before Arcade Fire came on and blew us all away. I won't talk about stand out tracks but just encourage you to go out, or online, now and buy both Alligator and Boxer. Now. Below is the track that got it all started and the one that made me very happy in Suffolk. Press play and enjoy.
The National - Cherry Tree
The National - Apartment Story