Unlike many Internet darlings, the Brooklyn band The National took a long road to stardom. Bearded baritone Matt Berninger and his band of brothers — Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Scott and Bryan Devendorf — started out in 1999 in Cincinnati, self-released their first album in 2001 and earned that all-important critical acclaim with 2003's Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers and 2005's Alligator. Finally, eight years into its career, the group hit the big time with 2007's Boxer. That record's mix of guitars, strings and Berninger's coolly dreamy delivery attracted fans from all over the demographic map; its songs seemed written specifically for lovelorn mixtapes.
The National spent that December at the top of best-of lists — Paste called Boxer "Album of the Year" — a place the band figures to visit again in six months. High Violet, the band's follow-up, spawned a 4,500-word tome in the New York Times Magazine and made its debut at No. 3 on the Billboard charts, behind only the ubiquitous Justin Bieber and country sensation Lady Antebellum.