The National

Trouble Will Find Me

Written by: TL on 16/06/2013 17:52:52

The National are a strange band for many reasons. The New York-based quintet has been "happening" in a pretty big way, continually, for a good decade's time now, without ever becoming the kind of band I'd really expect to hear on the radio, nor think will be recognised in most conversations with non-music-nerds. So when they've managed to be on the soundtrack to pretty much everything ("Boardwalk Empire", "Warrior", "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist", "Portal 2" etc. etc.) and play packed arena stages around the world and still somehow remain non-mainstream, it's probably because the band is pretty strange musically speaking as well.

What I mean is let's be honest: Not a lot of bands, if any, sound a lot like The National, whose patient, melancholic soundscapes ebb and flow with a maturity and an introverted sincerity that you might feel like comparing to bands like Elbow or Death Cab For Cutie, yet their style is entirely their own. Okay so they've had their outbursts in the past (see "Mr. November" for instance), but over the past couple of records their thing has been deep thoughtfulness rather than desperation, and this characterises their seventh LP "Trouble Will Find Me" As Well.

Another word that has consistently characterised the band's sound is subtlety, and any changes from the prior "High Violet" to "Trouble Will Find Me" are subtle as well, as the band continues to work with peculiar guitar signatures, dense and immersive layers of ambiance and drumming patterns that, while deceptively simple, are often aligned in a manner that hints at emotional unrest underneath the band's tempered surface. All of it forming the perfect atmosphere to backdrop the unmistakable barytone of singer Matt Berninger, who is increasingly establishing a reputation as a modern day Lou Reed - one of the most recognisable voices in music all together.

If there is a change to be noticed then, I think it's mainly that "Trouble Will Find Me" further explores just how much you can sound like you're not trying to impress people, yet manage to impress them all the more for it. What I mean is that the album manages to sound even more disaffected-yet-clearly-affected than usual, and in this contradiction continues to lie the band's strength - In that and in the fact that the melodies and lyrics are as sneakily catchy as ever. Indeed, just having the album on as background music should quickly get you surprisingly familiar with the first six or seven songs out of the record's total thirteen.

If there's a flaw though, in an album that really does nothing but fortify The National's deserving of the steadily growing levels of appreciation directed towards them, I think it's in things plainly feeling a bit less consistent down the stretch of its second half. On the first half, the frantic drumming that offsets the muttered, brilliant lyricism of "Don't Swallow The Cap" and "Sea Of Love" will quickly establish them in your head - if you've heard it already, the former's lines "everything I love is on the table, everything I love is out to see, I have only two emotions, careful fear and dead devotion, I can't get the balance right, throw my marbles in the fight" will likely already be imprinted in your brain. "Demons" and "Heavenfaced" and opener "I Should Live In Salt" will sneak their way in there in all their subduedness as well, but as we move past "This Is The Last Time", I can't help but to think things get rather mundanely hit and miss. In general, the material is still high quality (I would rather listen to it than a lot of what else is out there), and "Graceless", "I Need My Girl" and "Pink Rabbits" are recognisable enough, but for one reason or another, they don't seize the listener's attention as palpably as the album's first half.

What that means in the grander scheme of things is precious little: By now The National have written so many strong songs, that it just means fans will have less to be disappointed over, when some of their favourite cuts inevitably get cut from the band's live setlists. As for "Trouble Will Find Me" as an album, it still offers fascinatingly immersive and thought-provoking music with a consistency that's rare enough in the music scene overall - and serves as 'just' another step for The National as a band that continues to explore a path that leads in a completely different direction than where almost anybody else in music is looking right now.


Download: Don't Swallow The Cap, I Should Live In Salt, Sea Of Love, Heavenfaced
For The Fans Of: Elbow, Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad, Death Cab For Cutie, Lou Reed, The Arcade Fire

Release Date 20.05.2013

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