Launching a successful showbiz career from Ohio ain't easy. Just ask Cincinnati quintetthe National, which relocated to Brooklyn in 1996 to seek greener musical pastures. In the ensuing years, the rootsy outfit has released a pair of lauded full-lengths, including its recently issued sophomore effort, Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers. At the heart of the National's musical center is vocalist Matt Berninger, whose haunted baritone recalls a less caustic version of subterranean homesick crooners such as Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave. But it's the band's tempered use of selected influences (Americana, BritPop) on whisky-and-wry tunes such as "Murder Me Rachael" and "Bitters and Absolut" that drives home its point. Fans of bookish rockers such as the Smiths and Elvis Costello will dig the National's erudite lyrics and carefully constructed sonic passages, but the group's live sets disavow the somber milieu of its recorded work to focus on the more serious business of burning down the house.