When I first heard Brooklyn-via-Cincinnati indie rock band The National back in my high school days, I wasn’t too impressed. The kind of music they make is adult-oriented post-punk rock, and deals with everyday situations. They’re part of a genre that’s not really one for huge radio airplay or top-charting singles.
Furthermore, regardless of how commercially unappealing they may seem, they effectively capture the banalities of middle-class adulthood in America. In short, they care more about keeping their craft personal and genuine rather than churning out pop hits.
Frontman Matt Berninger’s deep, smoky, baritone vocals tie the lush instrumentation and precise composition by twin guitarists Aaron and Bryce Dessner and the rhythm section of brothers Scott (bass) and Bryan Devendorf (drums) come together to create a very calm sense of grey. Berninger is no stranger to lyrics that seem arbitrary and commonplace, but can resonate with anyone’s emotions.
Their latest album, “Trouble Will Find Me,” finds the band comfortable in their own skin and producing arguably the finest music they’ve ever written.
Tracks like the piano-led ballad “Pink Rabbits” and the heaviest rock song on the album, “Sea of Love,” deal with heartbreak and awkwardness in relationships (“I was a television version of a person with a broken heart”), while acoustic opening track “I Should Live in Salt” deals with Berninger’s guilt for not being involved in his younger brother’s life more (“I should live in salt for leaving you behind”).
Other tracks like the pulsing “Graceless” and “Don’t Swallow the Cap” keep the flow of the album interesting, with slow, tense builds that The National is known for. Each track seamlessly flows into the next, regardless of tone. The soft guitar tune in “I Need My Girl” effortlessly flows into the climactic, booming “Humiliation” without a hitch.
Surprisingly, there aren’t any weak points or filler tracks, but this album is not for the faint-of-heart. Like all National albums, appreciating and loving this album takes time and repeated listens to absorb all the little details and lyrics that feel fresh with each spin. This might not be an album that you can rock out to just yet. Instead, it is one to experience, internalize, and eventually fall in love with.
Recommended. It’s an album that gives back whatever you put into it.