I'd never heard of The National before being turned onto them by a like-minded friend; let's just say I owe him for the recommendation. Big time.
Because Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers is worth buying for Cardinal Song and 90 Mile Water Wall alone, with repeated listens revealing that nearly all the other songs on it are fantastic too.
There's a fire in these songs that burns with the ferocity of prime American Music Club, and the soul of Lambchop and Tindersticks. To make comparisons is a bit unfair though, because The National pull off the uncommon trick of wearing their influences proudly, but still sounding original. And despite the bleak lives painted in the lyrics the music on this album is full of eyes-skywards melodicism and quiet inventiveness. That this is sustained over the full length of the album is invigorating indeed, and they even manage to hit a peak over the last few tracks, a rare pleasure in my experience.
Matt Berninger's voice is beautifully suited to this material, and the playing and arrangements consistently match up with the moods conjured, with gorgeously woozy strings on several tracks.
If any of the above appeals, then get hold of this forthwith. Easily in the top ten new albums this year.