Every week, we spend time getting lost in the stacks at archive.org. Each Friday, we offer up a few of our favorite preserved objects and found moments. This week: a short survey of live shows by The National. Read on for the torrent links.
Friday Download: The National
The common refrain to the National’s story is that most benignly-dismissive of musical descriptors: grower. There is some truth to the incremental nature of their rise to stadium-filler: five Brooklyn by way of Cincinnati friends come together to record gimlet-eyed alt-country songs about weekends in the office and failed relationships, are promptly filed away as “Silver Jews-lite” and forgotten.
While the self-titled 2001 album had its twangy charms, by 2003’s Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers, they had fully-weaponized their suburban ennui: the musical muscle and nuance of Joy Division, the bitter but not defeated lyricism of John Cheever.
Each successive album was its own microcosm of small triumphs, the petty successes against the tidal waves of failure and disappointment that accompany each paycheck. By 2010’s High Violet, they had accrued enough little victories to come out on top, headlining festivals and major concert venues across the globe. Through it all, they have pushed their sonic boundaries outward and upward, seeking to speak louder and more confidently about the anxieties of modern life. Based on live performances of their new songs, the National’s sixth album, Trouble Will Find Me (out May 21 in the US), promises further musical growth and lyrical empathy.
These three shows from 2007 and 2011 perfectly capture the evolution of the National into a powerhouse live band, from the pleading desperation of Alligator’s “Baby We’ll Be Fine” to the regality of High Violet’s “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”. There is a certain point in any National show when you are hit square with an understanding of how hard this band works. Not to downplay their tremendous talent and musical camaraderie, and the sheer joy that seeps out of the corners of even their most despairing songs. But as singer Matt Berninger takes white wine-fueled flight off the stage and up into the rafters during “Mr. November,” you instinctively love this band for striving endlessly to reach out to you, for making the banality of adulthood, your adulthood, something to be both mourned and kicked repeatedly in the teeth.
You are not alone, their music defiantly declares over and over. And their audience grows in kind.
The review’s written by BitTorrent friend and community member John Schreder. Want to help curate and review archive.org content? Hit us up: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Internet’s library is filled with amazing things. Let’s share them.