It was a mere six months ago that we were bestowing the album of the year award upon The National and as an interim offering The Virginia EP is a collection of new tracks, demos and live tracks.
First up is 'You've Done It Again Virginia' a rolling, piano accompanied affair that whilst pleasant doesn't quite simmer with the same sense of atmosphere we've got used to with The National.
Two more new tracks follow, Santa Clara and Blank Slate follow, both tracks were b-sides for the single release of Mistaken For Strangers, and whilst Blank Slate is probably the strongest of the two, you get the feeling that in comparison with the tracks that made the cut for 'Boxer' these two earned their b-side status.
There's a couple of cover versions on the EP too, firstly a studio version of Caroline Martin's 'Without Permission' and a live cover of the Bruce Springsteen track 'Mansion on the Hill.' Without Permission is safer territory for the band but despite the odd stylistic fit with The National's normal sound, 'Mansion' actually comes across as the more moving song, depicting the gruesome glamour of middle America.
The demo tracks provided here are useful only as windows into The National's songwriting process. Boxer favourite 'Slow Show' is here in demo form and you can really see how much the song improved for the final album version. The other demos show promise but definitely fall on the side of feeling unfinished.
If you're already a fan of the band then this is obviously going to be of interest to you, on the other hand by way of an introduction to The National you would find much more to love by getting hold of 'Boxer'. Obviously The Virginia EP is only what it is meant to be, an interim release of unreleased tracks. It's good in places but ultimately it goes nowhere near to capturing what this band is capable of.