Office Space: Breaking Down "The National"

How to describe perhaps Americas finest modern rock band? Simply put, the National mesh, they construct and tear down, and they play rock n' roll unlike anyone else. At the core of all their songs lies a detectable heart buried underneath a sea of concrete

The National are city boys, their influences cosmopolitan, and they often teeter at the edge of wiseassdom only to be saved by their art. After a typical National song has reached it's conclusion, we've read a tightly constructed essay of postmodern discontent, meticulously built with plenty of poetry and no wasted words.


Although the band is led by lead singer Matt Berninger, the National does not serve as a vehicle for any sort of overwhelming personality. As a unit, the National almost always have something to say that seems to stretch beyond just one personality, suggesting that a collective approach is favored by the band. 

In many ways, they are the opposite of the Drive By Truckers, and not only in the sense that they aren't dominated by major personalities. The National are not rural nor working class by nature: instead, they are frustrated professionals, restless souls choked out by their neckties and their own thoughts in a fluorescent-lit Manhattan office. Like the Truckers, though, they're songs cut to the bone.

After a cursory listen, it might seem like the National run the risk of their songs all sounding vaguely familiar, but alas, layered complexity and emotional subtlety make themselves known after repeated listens. Below, I list the best songs from these professional, lonely subway dwelling white collar professionals. Some of these songs break free from suburban childhoods, lament torn relationships, feel suffocated by the city, or cast a wary eye on the empty mechanization of the corporate world. . . it's clear that they all do something.



The Best of the National:

1: CONVERSATION 16

2: SECRET MEETING
3: GRACELESS
4: MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS
5: I NEED MY GIRL
6: I SHOULD LIVE IN SALT
7: THE GEESE OF BEVERLY ROAD
8: BLOODBUZZ OHIO
9: LUCKY YOU
10: ANYONE'S GHOST
11: BLANK STARE
12: THIS IS THE LAST TIME
13: LEMONWORLD

In the coming weeks, I will review these tracks individually. For now, enjoy the playlist below:






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