Are The National Ready To Become The Festival Headlining Band They’re Worthy Of?

2023 feels like a huge year for The National. As we come to the end of it, the critics are placing not one but both of their album releases over the last 12 months in their record of the year lists, while the acclaim has been non-stop since they were released.

While they’ve not said it’s a “return to form” as such, it’s fair to say most reviews have said it’s The National back at their best, while singer Matt Berninger has also been vocal in how he’s come through a difficult time with depression to candidly talk about it within his lyrics.

Speaking in numerous interviews, he’s discussed how he gave up alcohol and went through cannabis withdrawal during the writing process for First Two Pages of Frankenstein and Laugh Track, a period where he was on antidepressants for depression.

And the results are quite breathtaking, exploring all parts of mental health, from the break-ups of Eucalyptus to the dark depths that Your Mind Is Not Your Friend takes you.

Laugh Track, which like the previously mentioned song features Phoebe Bridgers, is also a beautiful take on depression, while songs like Crumble provide an even more delicate offering to Berninger’s fragile mind of the time.

However, it’s the strength he has with his bandmates and wife, Carin, that enables him to be so open within his song writing.

Speaking to the NME, he said, “My relationship with the band and my relationship with my wife and everything is really healthy, and always has been made more healthy by writing about it falling apart.”

The two latest releases appear from a year of Berninger suffering writer’s block and concentrating on his mental health, with this year undoubtedly an outlet for that. But the results are The National’s best work to date, or at least for a long time.

A hectic tour schedule towards the end of 2023, selling out arenas globally has only backed up the well received nature of their latest work, which puts the band on a platform in which they could really enter Radiohead levels when it comes to their scale and size.

Headline performances at the major festivals feels like the next step, and a summit that they’ve long deserved. The National formed in 1999, have released 10 albums and have been on the cusp of such feats for the last few years. The likes of top billing at Glastonbury or Coachella seems the natural progression, and given the back catalogue, as well as new material The National are pumping out, they’d be fully deserving of it too.

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