Ohio natives The National are back with their sixth album, and are set to continue on the upward trajectory that they have been on since the release of their 2001 debut. With each album they have grown and honed their song-writing talents, so far peaking with 2010’s High Violet, but the self-produced Trouble Will Find Me looks set to take the band’s reputation even further.
Around the time of High Violet being released, somebody wrote a description of the band’s music that has always stuck with me. It was on a YouTube or forum comment, and went along the lines of “this band sound like a group of melancholy cowboys sitting around a camp fire after a funeral.” Cowboys they aren’t, but melancholy they certainly are; and on Trouble Will Find Me they strip back their emotions to their leanest forms yet. Anyone expecting any major sonic shift by the quintet will be disappointed, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Opener ‘I Should Live In Salt’ is a gentle and beguiling start, with singer Matt Berninger repeating the haunting line “you should know me better than that.” Lead single ‘Demons’ follows, led by Berninger’s wonderfully rich baritone, and sees him exclaiming “when I walk into a room, I do not light it up… fuck!” Blink and you’ll miss the uncharacteristic expletive.
Berninger seemingly goes through a range of moods throughout the album; sounding desperately fragile on ‘Don’t Swallow The Cap’ and ‘Fireproof’, more defiant on ‘Sea of Love’, and stirringly intense on ‘Heavenfaced’. ‘I Need My Girl’ is a late-album highlight; a sparsely melodic ballad with excellent guitar work by Bryce Dessner.
Cameos by Sufjan Stevens, Sharon van Etten, and St. Vincent largely go unnoticed, but add interesting footnotes to another exhilarating album by The National. Trouble Will Find Me won’t cheer you up on rainy day, but it’s still a mighty fine album.
TROUBLE WILL FIND ME IS OUT NOW