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The National

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Matt Berninger's warbling baritone has the gruff, amber warmth of whiskey. (As intoxicating as his band's songs are, it's arguable that his voice is at least 80 proof by itself.) Berninger is frontman of the National, a gorgeously morose rock band that has become one of the brightest talents in indie rock right now. (Yeah, I said it.) Berninger already had a career and a life when he formed the National in 1999. But the graphic designer quit his Brooklyn day job to go on tour behind the band's Alligator. That 2005 disc is the second in a slow-burning cycle of records capped by this year's nuanced, ennui-ridden — and successful — High Violet. Stage fright has been known to temper Berninger's fury in a live setting, but a packed crowd and a carafe of white wine ought to loosen him up. As much as a depressed, self-effacing intellectual can loosen up, that is.

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