This is a perfect album, that somehow manages to save it's finest moment, and indeed the finest moment of their career until the very last song. I wonder if this could happen in 2020, but ten years ago streaming hadn't achieved the dominance it had now, and fortunately The National are a band with a strong enough following and reputation to still demand respect for the album as a form.
The championship run starts with "Runaway", with the gentle acoustic guitars leading us toward a beautiful chorus. The strings and then horns slide in discreetly as the whole song keeps building without overwhelming, the melody rising like a boat on the tide until the pulse just fades out.
A steady start again, but much more urgency in "Converstion 16" which keeps pushing on toward the finale. Have the words "'Cause I'm evil" ever sounded more beautiful?
No band better captures the dichotomy of uplifting melancholia better than the National, and no track better exemplifies this than their masterpiece album and it's career high point closing track, "Vanderlyle Cry Baby Geeks". Without fail, every time this song gives me goosebumps when the chorus comes in. A Gen X "Bridge Over Troubled Water"? Quite possibly.
If they never climb these heights again, then their status as one of the premier purveyors of intelligent and inspiring music will remain secure.
"Go ahead, go ahead throw your arms in the air tonight....."