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The National: Conflicted Enough to 'Start a War'

The National plays atmospheric, nuanced rock that can sound threatening, resigned, or both.
The National plays atmospheric, nuanced rock that can sound threatening, resigned, or both.

The National's atmospheric, nuanced rock sounds most at home under the hazy neon light of late-night diners and along deserted streets. As The National's Matt Berninger sings in a low, worldly baritone — "Do you really think you can just put it in a safe behind a painting, lock it up and leave?" — jewel-toned guitars quietly chime around him.

A lovely tension permeates "Start a War," as Berninger's words suggest an inevitable clash of swords. The line "Walk away now, and you're gonna start a war" sounds like equal parts proclamation, threat and statement of weary resignation, as the song's apparent contradictions are bolstered by Bryan Devendorf's expert drumming, a low rumble that sounds both thundering and restrained. The slow, majestic sway of his bandmates' layered orchestra suggests a denouement — a changed world after the tragic hero is dead and gone — even as the song's momentum continues to build.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Kathryn Yu
By day, Kathryn Yu is an Interaction Designer working for a marketing firm in New York City, toiling away at Web sites. By night, she's a freelance photographer and live-music addict. Her photography has appeared in publications like Pitchfork, Rollingstone.com, Thrillist, Gothamist, and more. She often forgets to blog at kathrynyu.com, and is also making a movie.