By The National
Trouble Will Find Me. My most anticipated and indeed one of the most anticipated albums of the year. The album was never actually planned as such, as the band were planning to have a four year break after the breakthrough commercial success of High Violet which placed The National near the top of the old guard of indie rock - this record however truly establishes them as at the top of their game, that very few bands can compete with. The relaxed composition of this album doesn't exactly break the mold of The National's style but refines it, showing a band slightly less ill at ease with their success. Having said that, the old insecurities still remain as Matt sings of the skeletons beneath his skin and the the trials of life.
This album in tradition with other National albums is a grower, you plug away at it and discover new aspects, melodies of the songs that resonate musically and emotionally the more you listen and before long are buried in the back of your head; there are no cheap singles or chart monsters that are separated by filler, this is start to finish the prime example of a great album.
The album starts with a good indication of what is to follow; I Should Live In Salt, contains Matt's vocals straying higher than he has before and feels relaxed, sonically rich and lyrically more personal. On the subject of the album's lyrics, although they are not the best Matt has written, such as those on High Violet and Alligator and Boxer, they are certainly more personal and indeed more relatable - something the band is often targeted on, by writing about the day to day trials of middle aged, middle class men; however the lyrics can resonate with anyone and so often you can find a line that just captures a certain moment in your life then your own words never could. Here Matt's writing is at its peak in songs such as Pink Rabbits, Don't Swallow The Cap and This is The Last Time.
Similarly the vocal melodies are not as insatiably catchy as in High Violet but have a much greater variety such as coupling Matt's vocals with those of Annie Clark and Sharon Van Etten and the mass vocals of Sea Of Love which capture and energy not felt since tracks such as Abel or Mr November on Alligator. The versatility of Matt's own vocals is also tested more than in previous albums, showing its not just 'more of the same'; with his deepest rich baritone of Demons to the floating higher vocals of Pink Rabbits.
This album is all about subtlety, the overall timbre and feel of the record is a rich, dense and lush sound which seamlessly integrates electronic elements such as synths and drum machines with the natural elements of acoustic accounts and the intricate drumming of Bryan Devendorf. These lush soundscapes are best seen on the comparatively stripped down tracks of Slipped and the album's outro Hard To Find. The subtlety continues in the small changes to tracks that just lift them into something more interesting and compelling; for example the 7/4 time signature of Demons, the up tempo shift in Humiliation and also the mini outro of This Is Not The Last Time.
Many of these songs also draw from much of The National's previous work. For example; Fireproof could easily be on Boxer, This Is The Last Time has echoes of Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers, Sea of Love has a big Alligator vibe and energy to it, and Pink Rabbits could sit among the best of High Violet. This gives the album not quite a compilation feel but one that makes this album possibly the most self-assured and coherent example of 'what are The National.'
Its clear this album is very good, not only does it have the trademark gravitas and class that The National have brought to their last three albums, its is still accessible to all National fans and indeed anyone who has just discovered them. This is not boring, middle aged man music but a down to earth, rivetting, intimate and at moments even sublimely profound collection of songs that are some of the best anyone could hope to hear.
What is perhaps most startling is that the National seem to be a band that can do no wrong, after the slightly lackluster debut, every album since has been very good, the last four albums of Alligator, Boxer, High Violet and Trouble Will Find Me have been exceptional, the antithesis of one hit-wonder indie bands and pop acts at the mercy of the music press. This album is a refinement of everything The National have done so far, drawing upon aspects of all of their best works to create an album which although admittedly is not their best album, it does not need to be anything groundbreaking and showcases exactly why the band is one of the best indie-rock bands of the 21st Century and how there is no one close to matching the consistently brilliant calibre of music that they do.
Key tracks: Don't Swallow The Cap // Pink Rabbits // Sea Of Love // Graceless