Breaking Artist: The National

May 30, 2007 4:25 PM ET

Who: Graphic design school drop-outs Matt Beringer (vox) and Scott Devendorf (bass) recruited Devendorf's brother Bryan, plus fellow Ohio natives (and twin brothers) Aaron and Bryce Dessner to play music together after relocating separately from Cincinnati to Brooklyn in 1999. The fivesome started recording tunes on a lark, crafting orchestral anthems that drew sonic inspiration from Guided By Voices, the Smiths, the Replacements and Violent Femmes. Eight years and four albums later, the quintet has arrived, first with the release of 2005's Alligator, an indie-rock blockbuster that sold more than 60K, and this month with the critically loved Boxer -- a strings-bolstered collection of epic blue-collar yarns. Read a live review of the National's NYC Bowery Ballroom show here.

Hear It Now: Feast your ears on boozy ballads like "Fake Empire" and "Mistaken For Strangers" on their MySpace page.

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

More Song Stories entries »