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“You keep a lot of secrets / and I keep none” somberly croons The National frontman Matt Berninger on ‘Fireproof’ from new album ‘Trouble Will Find Me‘. It’s a statement that resonates with the rest of the record with force. Of course, the band have never tiptoed around personal subject matter in their work, but with their sixth album we see a portrait of Berninger at his most vulnerable – juxtaposed by one of a band at their most confident and accomplished. As far as the songs themselves, the band continue to deliver their distinctive brand of morose chamber-pop, with it demonstrating a refined sense of mature clarity.
‘I Should Live in Salt’ introduces us slowly and meaningfully to the thematic tone of ‘Trouble Will Find Me‘, beginning relatively sparse before building to a stunningly orchestrated, drawn out close. The National have a knack for incredible album openers and ‘Trouble Will Find Me‘ is no different.
From there, what unfolds in an almost hour long album is by far the band’s most coherent and focused record to date.
Earlier in the year, Berninger noted that the songs on ‘Trouble Will Find Me‘ were more “immediate and visceral” than earlier work and there’s some truth in that statement. It’s not that it’s a particularly energetic record – the band are hardly known for fast-paced rock numbers. Rather, there’s a mature acknowledgement of the band’s trademark sound with an even greater sense of passionate, raw, confessional songwriting. Songs like ‘Don’t Swallow the Cap’, ‘This Is the Last Time’ and ‘Sea of Love’ highlight something that is profoundly exciting – not simply because of some sort of instantly infectious buzz of activity, but because each of the 13 songs on ‘Trouble Will Find Me‘, while initially very engaging on a base level – come with a clear understanding that there’s more to be discovered on each listen, unraveling another layer of the band’s multi-faceted, enigmatic framework with every play.
The National have become renowned for touching on bleak subjects lyrically and ‘Trouble Will Find Me‘ is probably the most undeniably personal of their career, given all the more impact in that the themes of growing older, leaving a loved one and finding yourself emotionally isolated are presented in such an intimate, reflective fashion. “Remember when you lost your shit / and drove the car into the garden / You got out and said I’m sorry / To the vines and no one saw it” is arguably the most urgently desperate moment on the album, as Berninger pleads with a loved one on ‘I Need My Girl’. Sonically, the album is gorgeously arranged – layered and highly textural without sounding too “full” or cluttered. Instead, sounds complement one another in a way that feels like everything is meticulously arranged. The album was produced in house by band members Aaron and Bryce Dessner and there’s a sense that, in relation to the sheer aural vision of the record – it really sounds the way the band want it to.
‘Trouble Will Find Me’ sees The National at the top of their game. The 13 songs on the album demonstrate a clear, mature yet visceral approach, delivered with professional finesse without sounding by-the-numbers and instead bold and self-assured. There’s a definite sense of coherency and it feels like an “album” album moreso than anything the band have done in the past. An incredible record.
1. I Should Live in Salt
3. Don’t Swallow the Cap
5. Sea of Love
7. This Is the Last Time
10. I Need My Girl
12. Pink Rabbits
13. Hard to Find