A national treasure with heart-rending songs
Album Review: The National Trouble Will Find Me (AD) ****
There is something delightfully old-fashioned about how The National have gone from just another band to one whose every album release feels like a significant event.
Their first two records were the products of a group of friends trying, with mixed success, to find their voice – and a fanbase. Many bands would have split at such a juncture, but not Matt Berninger & Co. Their breakthrough would come in 2005 with third album Alligator – a deeply intelligent, utterly compelling work that marked them out from the pack.
Subsequent albums Boxer and High Violet consolidated their status as one of America's great contemporary bands.
And so it continues with this slow-burning sixth album.
The template has not been rewritten and there are no great stylistic departures. Instead, the quintet concentrate on delivering beautifully written songs that play with emotions, tug on heartstrings and resonate in ways that are hard to pin-point.
Berninger's baritone remains a thing of beauty and his vocals are more understated here than on recent albums.
Those looking for a Mr November or Terrible Love might be disappointed. But anyone willing to give these songs the requisite time to percolate will be rewarded. The compelling Demons confronts self-doubt and depression as Berninger sings, with brutal honesty: "When I walk into a room, I do not light it up."
Slipped captures this sense of unease particularly well. "I'm having trouble inside my skin," the singer notes. "I try to keep my skeletons in."
Graceless, meanwhile, is the sort of pulse-quickening number that this band do so well. Its jaunty, seemingly upbeat tempo clouds its troubled, self-critical subject matter.
As before, the songs' arrangements are exquisite and the playing from the Dessner and Devendorf brothers exemplary. Trouble Will Find Me is another remarkable chapter in the story of an exceptional band.
KEY TRACKS Demons; Graceless