The National return with their sixth studio album Trouble Will Find Me, and it seems they’re still yet to shrug the weight of the world off their shoulders.
The steady rise of the Brooklyn-based band is unusual for today’s hype-centred music industry, where acts can become household names without having a proper release to their name. The case of The National is different though, with an enduring sense of progression with each release, and in turn new fans being drawn in along the way.
It’s been a whole 14 years since Matt Berninger and co formed the band in 1999, but it wasn’t until 2005’s Alligator and 2007’s The Boxer until they started to make ripples in the industry, before 2010’s High Violet, their most complete album to date, propelled them into the public’s consciousness.
For the first time in their career The National, now very much in the musical spotlight, would have felt the weight of expectations as they prepared for their new album, and whilst Trouble Will Find Me isn’t the sound of the band shrugging off that expectation, it’s them embracing it with open arms.
The album, released last week via 4AD Records, is not the band reinventing themselves in any way, but instead them sticking to the same tested formula that has won so much respect and adulation. However, sticking to the same formula may, in some people’s eyes, be deemed a negative way to go, a simple path to take, a copout. This is far from the truth with The National though, as it’s a formula they’ve made truly their own, perfecting it with each release.
Each chorus explodes with mellow bombast, and though you know exactly what’s coming it’s always enough to give you goose bumps. Matt Berninger’s hearty baritone adding extra sadness, regret and worry to his deeply personal autobiographical lyrics. His anxiety-racked mind is always open for you to decipher, but there’s never ever doubt that it’s 100% authentic.
The National’s mood setting isn’t constantly stuck on ‘down in the dumps’ though, instead there is an up and down range of emotions, like a perennially calm bi-polar sufferer. ‘Sea Of Love’ gallops with optimism whilst ‘I Need My Girl’ drips with desperation and glumness. ‘Don’t Swallow The Cap’, aired prior to the album’s release, is another case of the band choosing more positive tones.
Trouble Will Find Me is the sound of a band knowing exactly what’s required of them. It’s incredibly focussed and consistent, and the intimacy, intensity and musicianship that envelops the album ensure it stands firm as some of their best work.