The Ten Most Underrated Alternative Bands: The National

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This will be the first in a ten part series highlighting what I think to be the most underrated alternative bands currently active today. Once a week for ten weeks I’m going to highlight a band for you, in hopes you’ll check them out.

Even if you have heard of the band I’m highlighting today, I suggest reading on. You might find out something new, or get tipped of to a new song that may become one of your all time favorites. 90% of finding new music to listen to is jumping the hurdle of opening up your mind, and just giving it a chance.

The National —

national_boxer_pr1Arguably one of the most popular bands on my list. Making them probably the worst band to start out with. My love for this band is so strong however, I couldn’t resist. I still have yet to hear them on my local alternative radio station, so I think that counts for some credibility.

The National have quickly become one of my all time favorite bands with their unique sound, and mind blowing talent. Some have said that they’re an acquired sound, and honestly I get that. The National is not your typical alternative band. They use off beat lyrics, sang in a bassy almost monotone voice. Quite reminiscent of Joy Division, or Interpol.

For me I fell in love almost instantly with The National. The first time I heard them was a year ago when fellow WatchPlayRead staffer Kristi shared the song 90–Mile Water Wall with me. The lyrics steam rolled me.

“Well I know that you know
That you’ve become the target of this hand
With never even asking
Well I know that you know
That you’re the only thing that I can stand
So how could your hair
Have the nerve to dance around like that, blowing
And how could the air
Have the nerve to blow your hair around like that

I’m waiting for a 90-mile water wall
To take me out of your view
I’m looking for a trap door trigger
To drop me out of your view

Yes I’m listening I’m listening
I can tell that you are serious
Your looking for that hurt look around my mouth
The look of a steep fall
Yeah that’s how Hersey put it

So you can make another claim
Well go ahead and make it
So you can make another claim
Well go ahead and make it”

Yes I’m listening
I can tell you’re serious

The vivid picture painted in my mind of a man struggling with breaking a young girl’s heart. Making a tough decision to move on despite conflicting feelings. It hit me all so hard.

The National was formed in 1999 in Cincinnati, OH. Comprised of baritone singer Matt Berninger, twin brothers Arron and Bryce Dessner on guitar, and brothers Brian and Scott Davendorf filling out the rhythm section.

Matt is the only one without a brother in the band. This became the subject of a documentary filmed by Matt’s brother Tom Berninger. The movie is currently making its rounds on the festival circuit, but it’s clear from the trailer the movie is as intense and beautiful as one of “The National’s” songs.

With songs on the soundtracks for both “Warrior (2011),” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013),” it’s clear to see they have some decent attention. The reason I think they’re underrated is because I feel they’re much better than bands like “Kings of Leon,” and “Mumford and Sons,” who manage to sell out stadiums.

I will make this prediction right now: within a year from now The National will be blowing up the air waves, and selling out stadiums left and right.

Below I’ve posted some of my favorite performances. When I suggest watching them, I don’t say it lightly. These performances are amazing!


Two years in a row for Thanksgiving day the National have covered songs from Bob’s Burger’s! Check ’em out! —

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