I've been listening to this band constantly since last week. I heard so many good things about them on BTX and 10c that I felt like I was the only one missing out on the action, so I got hold of 2007's Boxer and their latest, High Violet. The music didn't blow my mind initially, but before I knew it, I was sucked in. How do I classify The National (based on these two records)? I think they sound what many would generally consider as indie rock. It's alternative music for the discerning adult.
To me, the lyrics are meaningless as they are meaningful at the same time, kinda like in a Talking Heads sense. The singer Matt Berninger sings in a real deep baritone voice, which actually complements the kind of music the band makes; he gives the song more emotional weight.
Boxer is a wonderful record that requires some patience to fully appreciate. Lush beautiful arrangements are aplenty, and though most of the songs sound pretty mellow, they are also emotionally haunting and 'loud'. I was had at Mistaken For Strangers -- it's the most outstanding song I've heard in a very long time. One of the greatest albums of the decade for sure.
I find High Violet more depressing, with the occasional spoonful of dark humorous lyrics mixed in. The music here is sparsely melodic, and I love the bass and drumming on Anyone's Ghost, Little Faith, Lemonworld, Conversation 16. Meanwhile, Bloodbuzz Ohio is on its way to becoming the best song of 2010. And England is fucking musical heaven. Just listen to the horns on this one. Time for me to check out their first three albums!
P.S. Also check out their very unique cover of Springsteen's Mansion On The Hill on the Virginia EP.