16 Essential Songs by The National

Celebrating new album 'Sleep Well Beast'

It’s genuinely hard to put together a list of the “best songs by The National,” because in reality we would just put their entire discography on here.

That being said, we put together a list of their most recognizable tracks, and a couple hidden treasures along the way, to celebrate the release of their much-anticipated new album Sleep Well Beast. Here are 16 Essential songs by The National you should be admiring:


I Need My Girl

The fifth and final single from the National’s 2014 record Trouble Will Find Me is “one of the most direct, earnest love songs” the band ever wrote, said singer Matt Berninger. He wrote it about missing his wife and daughter while on tour.

BloodBuzz Ohio

You have to love this 2010 hit, if only for the killer drum beat. A golden oldie from their killer record High Violet.

Wasp Nest

If you’ve been lucky enough to see the National live, chances are you’ve seen them play this throwback. They often bring out “Wasp Nest” from 2004’s Cherry Tree as a special treat for fans.

Squalor Victoria

Before Matt Berninger joined The National he worked in advertising until his late thirties. Berninger wrote “Squalor Victoria,” which roughly translates to “filthy victory” in Latin, because he felt unfulfilled in his white collar profession.


Murder Me Rachael

“Murder Me Rachael” was Berninger’s way of reaching out to his sister, Rachel (although spelled ‘Rachael’ in the song).


Green Gloves

Low-key this might be The National’s greatest song.

Apartment Story

The dark and beautiful “Apartment Story” is another love story from 2007’s Boxer. Take a listen for drummer Bryan Devendorf’s signature The National drum beat here.



“Ada” is the story of a woman with severe social anxiety who has cut herself off from the world, told through gorgeous metaphors and expert storytelling by a mysterious narrator.


From 2010’s High Violet, “Sorrow” is another example of the group’s expert ability to write brooding love ballads.


American Mary

This deep cut from The National’s debut self-titled album tells a story from the perspective of a man willing to do anything to get past a turbulent time in a relationship, and who is willing to sacrifice everything to avoid a breakup.


Don’t Swallow The Cap

One of this writer’s favourite tracks comes from their previous album Trouble Will Find Me. “Don’t Swallow The Cap” pictures a troubled person who is struggling with addiction and is losing touch with those they love.


Mistaken For Strangers

The powerful chorus of this track from Boxer is highly relateable, seeing as it’s about getting older and falling out of touch with friends.


About Today

One of The National’s more depressing tracks comes from their early album Cherry Tree.


A haunting song from Trouble Will Find Me is about how masking anxiety and depression with drugs and alcohol isn’t an effective solution.


“Abel” pictures a man talking his brother down from distress who is questioning his sanity and value in life.

Fake Empire

The opening track to Boxer describes Western civilization’s “Half awake” state, lost in a culture that overvalues excess and materialism as a way of escaping everyday real world problems.



Born To Beg

The latest from The National’s new album Sleep Well Beast, marking new territory for the band. “Born to Beg” is instantly recognizable as The National but is accented with subtle pulsing electronics that make it feel like a new beginning.