28 May, 2013

The National – “Trouble Will Find Me”

Baritone vocalist Matt Berninger said they chose the name The National because “it didn’t mean anything; [it was] benign and meaningless”. But the gloomy Brooklyn-based indie-rockers suddenly found their name most fitting when they were chosen to perform in front of 25,000 Americans before President Obama spoke in 2010. With exposure to such large audiences, The National’s fifth LP High Violet was met with critical acclaim. The band became known for their bombastic and highly technical drumming, atmospheric and melodic guitar and bass interplay topped off with brooding and emotive baritone vocals. Songs like “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and “Sorrow” caught the ears of music lovers for the deep complexities the band can put into a simple pop/rock format. But where the band really shines are the vocals; somber ad sad melodies that carry lyrics that are extremely relatable but ultimately obtuse.

After capturing the hearts and ears of millions in 2010 the quintet knew it would take a lot to meet or exceed High Violet. But in April of 2013 The National re-appeared on the scene announcing a collaborative art exhibit with Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson. On May 5th the band walked upon the stage at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art to play their song “Sorrow” for six hours straight. From noon until 6pm The National charged on and played their somber anthem for all six hours including an encore in which they performed “Sorrow”. Only two weeks after the brutal repetitive art performance the band knew they were ready to release their 2013 release Trouble Will Find Me.

An acoustic guitar opens up in an odd time signature with layers upon layers of guitar ambiance that sound larger than a canyon. Berninger comes into the track, mournful as ever, and broods the chorus “I should live in salt for leaving you behind” written to be sung by broken hearts. The second track “Demons” was the first to be released off the album, which is a delicate slow-moving major key anthem that are sung with what could be the deepest vocals on the whole album. The lyrics of this song successfully represent the album as a whole, a perfect mix of hard-to-read symbolism that connect to real world struggles of fear, dread, and uncertainty.

The second single to be released off the album “Sea of Love” is a blood-pumping post-punk-esque rocker that harkens back to The Nationals 2007 break through album Boxer. The music video to this track is homage to a Russian punk rock band where the band plays anxiously in a claustrophobic room but a small child dances comically for all four adorable minutes that could even make Ian Curtis smile.

The album stays fresh throughout by weaving back-and-forth between mid-tempo melancholy rockers and mournful sing-along ballads with an artful finesse that is purely The National. This album is a perfect reflection of their discography: consistent, satisfying and ever improving. An artfully bleak and honest release that can appeal to new fans and long time followers of the Brooklyn band. Trouble Will Find Me is a beautiful contribution to an already strong discography proving that The National are a hard working band that only get better with age.

Review by James Calvet

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