Rating: Each Album by The Nationwide from Worst to Finest

The Nationwide flip 20 this yr. Take a second to replicate on that. Of all of the indie rock bands to emerge from New York Metropolis on the flip of the millennium, just a few have aged as gracefully because the Brooklyn-via-Cincinnati quintet. Give it some thought: The Strokes, Interpol, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs are practically 20 years faraway from their instant-classic debuts, and you may depend on one hand the variety of actually nice albums they’ve launched thereafter. The Nationwide have a powerful (and arguably profitable) challenger in Vampire Weekend, and one other in LCD Soundsystem, which raises the query of whether or not or not New York’s greatest indie rock bands are even rock bands.

(Learn: Did Vampire Weekend Win the Indie Rock Age?)

If The Nationwide sound like a rock band, it’s virtually solely because of the brothers Dessner (Aaron and Bryce, each guitarists) and Devendorf (Scott on the bass, Bryan on the drums), as a result of frontman Matt Berninger doesn’t sing about what different rock bands sing about. Whereas Julian Casablancas, Paul Banks, and Karen O spun vivid tales of debauchery after darkish, Berninger sings about extra relatable issues — failing relationships, unfulfilling workplace jobs, and crippling hangovers. You’re pals with the characters that inhabit these songs, in case you’re not already certainly one of them.

(Purchase: Tickets to Upcoming Nationals Reveals)

If that makes The Nationwide “boring” — an epithet that’s been lobbed on the band because the starting — it’s additionally the key to their longevity. Listening to Is This It, Activate the Shiny Lights, and Fever to Inform, it’s virtually an upset that the blokes who made The Nationwide went on to provide a few of the most rewarding, affecting music of the 2000s. To have a good time the band’s 20 years, in addition to the discharge of their latest work, I Am Simple to Discover, we’ve revisited and ranked The Nationwide’s eight albums. (Meaning we’re leaving off a number of of their most interesting songs: “Exile Vilify”, the Cherry Tree EP’s “About Right this moment”, and their cowl of the Grateful Lifeless’s “Morning Dew”.) In the event you’ve but to take an uninnocent, elegant fall into the band’s discography, we’ve bought you lined.

-Jacob Nierenberg
Contributing Author

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08. The Nationwide (2001)

“So Stunned You Wish to Dance with Me Now” (Finest Dwell Tune): The Nationwide seldom play any tracks stay from their first album, however “Chilly Woman Fever” is a track that will make for a pleasant shock amid the band’s extra trendy materials. Just like “Stunning Head,” “Chilly Woman Fever” was predictive in that it accommodates many songwriting components The Nationwide are recognized for. It has Berninger’s crooning perspective and intelligent lyrics and even some synth experimentation seen on later albums corresponding to Sleep Nicely Beast and I Am Simple to Discover. Together with a track like this on their upcoming tour would sonically make sense, and it’d be a reward for these following the band since their origins.

“I’ll Clarify The whole lot to the Geeks” (Common Evaluation): The Nationwide’s self-titled debut, whereas not by any means a nasty document, was extra of an embryonic stage for the band than a definitive one. Throughout this period, the Cincinnati quintet (then a quartet, Bryce Dessner wasn’t a member but), was nonetheless figuring out its sound. The Nationwide is brimming with alt-country, an affect that’s nowhere to be seen on albums corresponding to Boxer or Alligator. Although few followers have seemingly given this album a radical pay attention, The Nationwide is a vital starting step within the band’s discography.

–Grant Sharples

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07. Unhappy Songs for Soiled Lovers (2003)

“So Stunned You Wish to Dance with Me Now”: Very similar to The Nationwide, Unhappy Songs has successfully been retired from stay performances. “Obtainable”, “Cardinal Tune”, and “Homicide Me Rachael” appeared on setlists as not too long ago as 2014, however the one lower off of Unhappy Songs you’re prone to hear in the present day is “Fortunate You”. It’s a breakup track, certain, however the tone isn’t certainly one of bitterness a lot as resignation; Berninger’s ex-lover remains to be going to have a maintain on him lengthy after she’s discovered another person. “You personal me/ There’s nothing you are able to do,” he sings, not that there’s something he can do, both. It took the gang a few minute to identify this one when The Nationwide performed it on the Pink Hat Amphitheater in Raleigh, NC, final Might, however as quickly because it registered, the one particular person within the room speaking was Berninger.

“I’ll Clarify The whole lot to the Geeks”: I’ll admit that I can’t keep in mind the final time I listened to Unhappy Songs in full earlier than taking over this piece. In revisiting it, I used to be pleasantly shocked: it’s hardly a definitive musical assertion of goal, however it’s higher than your common early-aughts indie rock album. In its lesser moments, Unhappy Songs feels like a more-refined model of what you heard on their debut, however its greatest songs function sharper lyrics and a few indicators of musical experimentation. It’s album in its personal proper, however Unhappy Songs is most necessary in the way it reworked the band who launched The Nationwide into the band who would launch Alligator.

–Jacob Nierenberg

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06. I Am Simple to Discover (2019)

“So Stunned You Wish to Dance with Me Now”: It’s no secret that The Nationwide have already performed fairly a number of tracks from their newest album stay, certainly one of which is the extremely percussive “The place Is Her Head”. They debuted it with indie singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers again in April, and it opens with easy, repeated chords, adopted by auxiliary percussion and later Bryan Devendorf’s crackling snare and punchy bass drum. The lyrics are composed virtually fully of questions (“Is she outdoors? Is she looking? Is she standing up?”), which pair completely with Mike Mills’ equally ambiguous brief movie.

“I’ll Clarify The whole lot to the Geeks”: I Am Simple to Discover and the album that preceded it, Sleep Nicely Beast, virtually beg to be in contrast to one another. The identical synth experimentation and loop manipulation seen on Sleep Nicely Beast is discovered right here. Even the precise haunting synth that opens “I’ll Nonetheless Destroy You” is heard on “So Far, So Quick” and “Quiet Mild”. And it might be straightforward to make such comparisons, however I Am Simple to Discover is a completely new route for The Nationwide. They’ve by no means had practically as many collaborators earlier than, together with Sharon Van Etten, Gail Ann Dorsey, and Lisa Hannigan to call a number of. It’s a document that additionally takes liberties with its size, however to not its detriment. As an alternative of being overzealous, it’s affected person, and it asks listeners for this endurance, too. Due to this, it might not have the quick attraction of data corresponding to Excessive Violet or Boxer, however it’s all of the extra rewarding and adventurous for it.

–Grant Sharples

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05. Sleep Nicely Beast (2017)

“So Stunned You Wish to Dance With Me Now”: On the entire, Sleep Nicely Beast is The Nationwide’s mess-around-with-electronics album, however it’s bought a few of their hardest-rocking materials because the Alligator days. Living proof: “Day I Die,” which the band has performed at practically each present because the document dropped. In the event you don’t already consider Bryan Devendorf is among the many greatest drummers in indie rock, you’ll inside the first 30 seconds. Couple that with a refrain that begs to be shouted alongside to, and the screeching guitar that responds to it, and also you’ve bought The Nationwide’s most anthemic observe in years.

“I’ll Clarify The whole lot to the Geeks”: From a purely lyrical standpoint, Sleep Nicely Beast is top-tier Nationwide. The central narrative of the album is about saving a crumbling marriage, which will get actually meta when you think about that Berninger’s spouse, Carin Besser (a former fiction editor for The New Yorker), co-wrote the lyrics with him. (She’s had writing credit on earlier songs, however by no means throughout a full album.) It’s musically the place Sleep Nicely Beast falters. Among the extra experimental songs, corresponding to “I’ll Nonetheless Destroy You” and “Responsible Get together”, efficiently marry digital components to The Nationwide’s signature model of brooding, whereas others, corresponding to “Stroll It Again” and the title observe, aren’t attention-grabbing sufficient to justify their size. Objectively, Sleep Nicely Beast is an efficient album, and for 2 thirds of its hour-long runtime, The Nationwide ship the form of emotionally resonant songwriting that has made them indie rock heavies for 20 years. It’s simply that for a lot of the opposite third, they don’t.

–Jacob Nierenberg

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