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Indie Music Promotion For Underground Bands, The National - A Review On The Band

Updated on August 23, 2011

The National - From Dirty Lovers to High Violet

Let me introduce you to The National! They have been together for about ten years and have released various albums over this period. This indie music promotion aims to draw you into an awareness of an underground band that appears to peep its head over the wall of stardom, winks at the world and then withdraws to create another musical piece of brilliance. Time and time again they just don't disappoint. High Violet, their newest album, consistantly follows the tracks from whence their roots began....

An indie, emo, rock band based in Brooklyn, they have been compared to the likes of Britain’s Editors and follow in the line of The Smiths and Joy Division. Starting from folk origins of their debut album, they later developed into the dark hard-hitting sound that Boxer and Alligator offers. The debut album ‘The National’ has simple melodies. It isn’t until you listen to Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers that you can hear the transition from folk to indie.. Matt Berninger’s drone starts to compliment the intricate big sound. The Cherry Tree E.P. is more melancholy. This formed a basis to Alligator and Boxer from which Abel, Secret Meeting, Lit Up, Mistaken For Strangers, Apartment Story and Fake Empire were released. Fake Empire was used by Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign during high profile election events.

The National

An Overall Music Review That Encompasses their Live and Recorded Performances.

I first saw The National at the Green Man Festival, after the release of Boxer. I started to listen to them after a free sampler from Q Magazine promoting Fake Empire. After watching them on youtube and downloading their albums, I became an appreciator of their music and booked tickets for Green Man, especially to see them as I had missed them at Glastonbury Festival – boo hoo! It is with this hub, I want to let the secret out of the bag! This is my special indie music promotion dedicated to a special band.  I am not paid to write this article, but I believe that it is from the word of mouth of fans of underground music, that struggling bands will have recognition.

After seeing them at the Royal Festival Hall in London, decided to tell the world with the indie music promotional review - the moment and the music. This is hoping to encompass a gig review of The National as a band live, as well as, recorded. I hope you enjoy this overall music review and that you might give a listen to a band that is one of the best in the indie music scene of today.

I will later on in this article give you details of albums and continue with updating you with news and reviews as they progress. In the meantime, let me introduce you to The National as a live band...

The National At The Royal Festival Hall, Monday 19th August 3009

Main Set

Run Away

Start A War

Mistaken For Strangers


Secret Meeting

Baby, We'll Be Fine

Slow Show

Vanderlylle Cry Baby

Squalor Victoria


All The Wine

Racing Like A Pro


Apartment Story


Fake Empire

Encore 1

Green Gloves

Blood Buzz Ohio

Mr November

About Today

The National are an Underground Band

The National are an underground band. This seems to herald an Indie secret society. If you haven't heard any of their music, a listen is highly recommended. They are unique and consistant.

Albums include:

  • The National, Debut Album
  • Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers
  • Cherry Tree E.P.
  • Alligator
  • Boxer

These are available on CD format and Album.

How Are The National Live?

This was a formal ‘sit down’ approach to a band that is notorious for a high impact emotional response from their fans. This is not the normal type of venue for a band where their lead singer, Matt Berninger, throws himself into his audience - neither was their fans used to being oppressed by the seating arrangements!

The auditorium was buzzing with classical undertones, tight drum beats, multi-dimensional rhythms and Matt’s bass baritone voice. It was no wonder that during this set, fans wiggled, swayed and moved within their seats during the first few numbers. By around the time The National played ‘Secret Meeting’, it became too much … all rose from their seats and partied their way through the rest of the set. Berninger remained as aloof as ever when beckoned by a fan, appealing to stand up to feel freer.

He responded by saying ‘you can fight over that and I can watch’. The band members seem to compliment each other’s musical abilities. Matt’s performance is awkward as he slinks on and off the stage, eyes down. He seems to demonstrate behaviors like a social worker pent up in a cage desperate to scream. This uninvited guest paces the stage like a puppet, performing yet watching from a distance. Such high functioning ability, yet not appearing to be a social being, may only be accompanied by the complicated, yet simple, varied tiers of trumpets, guitars, strings and beats in a loud/soft style.

The lyrics telling stories of passion, love, jealousy, human interaction and just plain ole simple ‘argyle sweaters and a smile’. Talented classically influenced brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Bryan and Scott Devendorf, keeps the timing strictly tight, complimenting the rhythmic drone and actions from Matt.

The set included previews from the imminent album due for release in Spring 2010, opening with ‘Run Away’ - a beautiful, desperate love song with undertones of horns, melodic piano, subtle guitars and maracas providing the back beat. In similar vain ‘Vanderlylle Cry Baby’ has the feel of a waltz with a dash of Irish folk - slow, caressing, emotional and passionate. The third newbie ‘Blood Buzz Ohio’, was introduced to the audience as the second song in the four-song encore.

Another track not dissimilar to the other new songs, although worth a few listens more. I am unsure if we are going to get any more hard hitting numbers like ‘Mr November’, ‘Able’ and ‘Mistaken For Strangers’ on the new album – but I guess we shall have to wait and see for that! However, these performances from the show didn’t fail to rock the audience and keep the usual professionalism and consistency that ‘The National’ is becoming associated with. Ending the show with ‘About Today’, embracing with euphoric melancholy and finishing with thunderous rapture, I can only write this with fond affection for a band that everyone wanted ‘more’ from… encore after encore please!

The National Debut Album

The National make sturdy American music, the sort of stuff that's built out of solid songs, radio-ready hooks, and tasteful, efficient arrangements. The CD's earnest, straight-ahead material is often country-flavored, but it can also evoke '80's rock anthems. Matt Berninger sings of the heart's travails in a sensitive, manly way that recalls fellow romantics like Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen.

He's equally adept at packing a slew of words into a single vocal phrase or milking a single word for dramatic effect. The guitar-bass-drums lineup is nicely abetted by the occasional piano line or synth flourish. There isn't room for surprise or eccentricity on this album; everything here is completely worked out and professionally crafted. But that's one reason this disc will appeal to people with a taste for well-made rock.

Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers

For a band that's been compared to Joy Division, Leonard Cohen, Wilco, and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, the National sure sounds a lot more like the Czars or Uncle Tupelo on this sophomore album Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers.

The band focuses on slow atmospheric songs, it's when it kicks out the jams that the music is the most compelling.. With so many influences rearing their heads and ample musical chops in the bag, the National might not be masters of any one genre, but it creates a fine amalgam nonetheless. Brassland. 2003.

One of my top tracks has to be SlpIping Husband.  This is a fantastic piece that crosses this band from folk to dark indie.  A real MUST HEAR!

Slipping Husband by The National - 'Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers'

Murder Me Rachel From Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers

The National and Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers

The National - Alligator Album - Mr November Used In the Obama Campaign

Alligator and Cherry Tree Quotes


On "Alligator", Matt Berninger's potent baritone still intones about matters fraught, funny, and sad; about record collections, missing persons, and medium-sized American hearts. "Startling and subtly affecting, The National creeps in like the killer in a bleak gothic novel. Strings tremble, hearts break, and each smoldering song brings a harrowing tale of new pities"--Magnet.

I highly recommend Alligator!  One of the best!

Cherry Tree EP

Cherry Tree has a very different feel from the most recent release 'Alligator'. It is quieter, is full of violins and kind've brings back memories of Dire Straits 'making moves' on 'All Dolled up In Straps'. With the exception of the last track on this EP all the other songs are very good with 'Cherry Tree' being the neatest and artiest song.

Lit Up by The National from Alligator Album

Buy Alligator and Cherry Tree on CD and MP3

Boxer, Skin a Night & The Virginia Ep


The follow-up to 2005's "Alligator" is filled with lush arrangements and sees the band incorporating new instrumentation and expanded musical elements such as piano, trumpet, and more prominent background vocals.

A fantastic piece of dark indie. I have included a teaser in this hub – ‘Mistaken For Strangers’. This is the second track off the CD and the one that made me stand up and listen! The whole album doesn’t have a duff track on it and it comes highly recommended.

Skin a Night & The Virginia Ep

This is a documentary about The National by French filmmaker Vincent Moon, who followed the group during the creation of their acclaimed 2007 release, "Boxer." It's an insightful and beautiful glimpse into the band's creative process. The DVD is packaged with a separate disc, "The Virginia EP", which contains twelve tracks of demos, a cover, live versions, a radio session, and b-sides.

Mistaken For Strangers From Boxer Album, The National

The National From Boxer - Fake Empire - Used In Obama Campaign

Performance At Bristol's O2, November 2010

Catching Up With The National

You can keep up to date with The National's new album on the following link:

You can also catch up with The National and their forum here:

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High Violet On Amazon With Free Delivery

High Violet Tracklisting

Track Listings

1. Terrible Love

2. Sorrow

3. Anyone's Ghost

4. Little Faith

5. Afraid Of Everyone

6. Bloodbuzz Ohio

7. Lemonworld

8. Runaway

9. Conversation 16

10. England

11. Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

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The National's Set List, Glastonbury 2010

  1. Mistaken For Strangers
  2. Anyone's Ghost
  3. Bloodbuzz Ohio
  4. Slow Show
  5. Squalor Victoria
  6. Afraid Of Everyone
  7. Conversation 16
  8. Abel
  9. Apartment Story
  10. England
  11. Fake Empire
  12. Mr. November
  13. Terrible Love

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The National Glastonbury 2010 Anyone's Ghost

The National At Glastonbury Festival - Glasto Gets Blown Away!

The Guardian News have said it. The music industry have said it. I have said it. Why are The National not one of the biggest bands in the world? Well, if this is not the case now, watch out for world domination soon!

Many of the crowd had no idea of the treat in store for them. Starting the set with 'Mistaken for Strangers' from Boxer album, people were instantly won over. Glasto gets blown away on a roller coaster of tight drum beats, synchronised guitars, Berninger's dulcet tones and the ever presence of violins with trumpets. How can the ears of Glastonbury Festival not be wooed and abused? The love/anger sensitivity abound of neurosis could not fail to impress the emotional express train on that Saturday afternoon slot. There was no stopping this band on this fierce heat drenched day and they certainly didn't take casualties.

Berninger threw himself into the crowd as he screamed 'Squalor Victoria' in some kind of hysterical fit, allowing himself to be mobbed by the Glasto peeps. 'Mr November', from Alligator, brought him unbiasedly toward the left hand side of the Other Stage but was restrained by the lack of microphone lead for him to get down and dirty with this side of the audience - although an array pats and hugs were gifted to this bearded wonder!

Five albums on, with the release of High Violet and their exceptional live presence, it looks like more people have now been initiated to the niche elite fan base of The National. Don't let them pass you by!

If you want to read more on what the Guardian says on the National at the Glastonbury Festival please click on the following link:

The Guardian:: The National at Glastonbury 2010

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    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Great Britain

      Davey - this is my favourite band. I love bloodbuzz... it explodes into a momentum of spontaneous combustion.

      However, my favourite album has to be Alligator, although tracks from sad songs for dirty lovers like Slipping husband, Available and Murder me Rachel definately moved the band from an accent of country to dark indie.

      Bless the National and bless Matt!

    • DaveysRecipeRead profile image


      8 years ago

      I like some of their stuff but with Bloodbuzz they definitely put out one of the best songs I've heard in years.

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      Thanks Beth... I met the National and they are a great team of guys :)

    • Beth100 profile image


      9 years ago from Canada

      Thanks Shaz for introducing a new group, at least to me! I'll have to try them on for size. :)

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      Thanks Tobey and Poetlorraine. The national are my favourite band! Love em and guess where Im off to? Latitude Festival to see them - again!! x

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      hi just commenting have not read it yet but is will...... certainly long enough anyway

    • tobey100 profile image


      9 years ago from Whites Creek, Tennessee

      Make that three comments. I do believe you found a way to get others to your site to get the ball rolling. Work those forums. Good hub too

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      Thanks K Partin and Denno. I hope you will give The National a good listen.

      Thanks for reading x

    • K Partin profile image

      K Partin 

      9 years ago from Garden City, Michigan

      Hey interesting hub and group. never heard of them either...Now lookie there, 2 comments already! Have a good one. Thanks K.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I have never heard of this band before now; thanks for opening up my ears to something new. :-)


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