Opinion: ‘the National’ was the best band of decade

Ryan Meyer, Reporter

The Cincinnati, Ohio indie rock band the National are well known for their somber musical arrangements and lyrics that paint a bleak, but realistic, picture of life as an adult. They have released eight studio albums and were introduced to the mainstream with 2007’s Boxer, their fourth album and a critical success. After Boxer, the National released three albums in a row, 2010’s High Violet, 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me, and Sleep Well Beast in 2017.

These albums made the band bona fide rock stars, with hit singles “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and “Don’t Swallow the Cap” helping them headline festivals and sell out venues across the world with their chaotic, unforgettable live shows. With these releases, the National shed comparisons to bands like R.E.M. and Wilco and developed a sound never heard before in the indie rock canon. They evolved with each release, as High Violet’s majestic, almost symphonic arrangements gave way to the slower, more stripped-down songs of Trouble Will Find Me, which was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the Grammy Awards. After a four-year hiatus the band returned with a total rehaul of an album, Sleep Well Beast.

It featured less guitar, more piano, and, new to the National’s arsenal, electronic elements. It was a rousing success, winning a Grammy for the Best Alternative Music Album. They also released a short film in 2019 entitled I Am Easy to Find, followed shortly thereafter by an album of the same name. It didn’t match up to the heavyweights of their past, but it included highlights like “Where Is Her Head” and “Rylan.” Regardless of the disappointment fans and critics felt, it was still one of the best rock albums of 2019. At what point does it become impossible for a band as successful as the National to surpass the beautiful albums of their twenty-year career?

The National were the best rock band of the 2010s because of their ability to adapt through a rocky early career to handling fame adeptly for ten-plus years. They were rewarded for their efforts with two Grammy nominations, winning one. They have a passionate fanbase that is constantly defending their honor to critics labeling them “boring” or “dad rock.” Call it what you will, but music displaying the strain of adulthood, parenthood, and financial struggles is always relevant. These themes are set to intricate melodies written by the classically trained Dessner brothers, Aaron and Bryce. Bryan Devendorf, the drummer, can easily be considered the most progressive drummer in modern music. His brother, Scott, plays bass for the National and reins in the intensity during their concerts and on record. Matt Berninger provides the poetry to give the band its aesthetic and message. His lyrics continue to inspire and perplex even the most dedicated fan. Hopefully him and the pairs of brothers never run out of things to write about.