A discography comprising six full-length albums as well as a bunch of b-sides, EPs and rarities is more than a little daunting when diving into the world of that band all your friends tell you you'll adore. Some bands actually are worth the slog though.

The National have already said that tonight's O2 Arena show in London will be the last of their exhaustive year-and-a-half world tour for latest effort Trouble Will Find Me. So if a six album career isn't too much to chew on, now is the optimum time to jump in before six becomes seven, and before you fall hopelessly in love just to realise your new favourite band has just played their last show for years and you slept on it. To help you do so, here's a Greatest Hits-length playlist to ease you in. (nb. Please don't release one though, boys. That'd ruin things.)


'Available'
Although the Cincinnati band's first two efforts, 2001's self-titled debut and 2003's Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers still aren't completely sold on me, Available, which features on the latter, is the earliest glimpse of The National mixing the morose and the frenzied more effectively than any band of this generation. It was given a rare live outing at the first of two Alexandra Palace shows the band played last November, dedicated to "all of you who were there at the Camden Barfly back in the day." 'Available' was the band's first track that made it certain that the band wouldn't reside in those toilet venues for much longer at all.


'About Today'
The name The National have made for themselves as masters of sorrow has largely come in the second half of their career, but 2004's 'About Today' is the earliest example of the band really beginning to hone their expertise in gloomy indie.


'Baby, We'll Be Fine'
2005's Alligator is almost universally considered the band's breakout record, and still their best to date by many. 'Baby, We'll Be Fine', plonked right in the middle of this stunning effort, recalls a thousand bad decisions and fuck-ups, with Berninger repeating "I'm so sorry for everything" over and over and over.


'Abel'
'Abel' is an important addition as it is the first thing The National released that felt like it could be a single. It's still their most abrasive track to date, and remains a staple of their live set nine years on.


'Mr. November' (live)
Even if you're not especially familiar with The National, you'll probably have seen a photo or watched a video of Matt Berninger scaling some form of balcony or scaffolding at a gig or festival, howling the chorus to 'Mr. November'. The power it still holds in the band's arsenal three albums later is a testament to its brilliance. A song about running for president and trying to stay positive, 'Mr November' is maybe the greatest example in music of the belief that you should end an album with its best song. Alligator's legacy, at least in part, is so strong because of its ferocious final blow.


'Mistaken For Strangers'
2007's Boxer introduced a quieter, darker, and more lyrically heavy-hitting National. 'Mistaken For Strangers', the title of which is used for the band's recent documentary film, laments the troubles in tackling the mundane everyday, and how hard it can be just to exist; the line "another un-innocent elegant fall into the unmagnificent lives of adults" is still a hammer blow.

'Apartment Story'
Somehow Boxer manages to house the eternally optimistic along with the downbeat and pull both guises off with matching conviction, with 'Apartment Story' acting as the album's welcome injection of positivity. "so worry not/all things are well/we'll be alright" sings Berninger, and through all his gloom, you end up believing him.


'Terrible Love'
Continuing their upward trajectory, 2010's High Violet gave The National three sold-out nights at Brixton Academy, a headline slot at Latitude, and third down on Reading and Leeds' main stages, largely due to powerful cuts like album opener 'Terrible Love'.


'Sorrow'
There's gotta be something special about the track that the band chose to perform over and over for six hours non-stop in a collaborative experiment called 'A Lot Of Sorrow'. A lot indeed, as even one listen to the track is affecting enough, continuing into the miserable, wonderful heart of High Violet.


'Afraid Of Everyone'
Many of the band's biggest fans would cite High Violet as their masterpiece, and it's the first of the band's LPs that continues on an even trajectory, where Alligator, Boxer and their predecessors contained a great amount of ebb and flow. 'Afraid Of Everyone' is just one more example of the Dessner brothers turning their reverb levels skyward and sucking the listener into the band's first perfectly formed full-length. Listen to this one when travelling at night-time.


'Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks' (live at Sydney Opera House)
High Violet's closing track is a pleasant finish, coated with horns and strings, tailing the album off amicably. The version on this playlist though is the completely new beast, and constant highlight of the band's gigs for the last four years, that the track has become when played live. The completely acoustic rendition even seems to translate in the cavernous arenas the band now occupy on every tour.


'Don't Swallow The Cap'
The first single from 2013's Trouble Will Find Me presents no reduction in the amount of sorrow being poured out of Matt Berninger, with the frontman musing over unsuccessfully balancing his emotions over a boppy soundtrack that really should be accompanied by lyrics a little rosier.


'This Is The Last Time' (live at Bonnaroo)
Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, makes a very subtle guest appearance towards the end of this brooding TWFM cut. She's performed it live with the band a handful of times, though, and her input is much less understated.


'Graceless'
The fact that 'Graceless' hasn't become The National's first top 10 single is probably the biggest mystery from the latest era of the band; it shows off the Devendorf rhythm section at its frenetic finest and possesses a chorus the airwaves should have been all over. Also just watch the video.