Acclaim has found them: The National impress again with “Trouble Will Find Me”

By BRADEN LAMMERS

The National may be nearing its end, and it might be about the right time.

Identified largely as the quintessential Brooklyn band, the Cincinnati transplants have become the elder statesmen of the indie music scene. And in a recent interview with Pitchfork, lead singer Matt Berninger hinted that The National may be nearing the end of its run.

“We’ve been on for almost 14 years, so another five years might be too much,” he said in the interview, when discussing the band’s past struggles. “I think we’ve learned to love and respect each other now and we’re kind of past all that stuff. I don’t know if that means we’ll stay a band for a lot longer — but for a little while, at least,” he added.

The group, which consists of Berninger and two sets of brothers — Scott (bass) and Bryan Devendorf (drums) and Aaron (guitar/keyboards) and Bryce Dessner (guitar) — has achieved critical acclaim, headlined national festivals and sold out shows across the country.

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Record rating: 8.9 of 10

Last month, The National released yet another strong effort “Trouble Will Find Me,” the band’s sixth full-length album.

What the five-piece has been able to establish is a brooding, melodic sound with Berninger’s baritone-sung lyrics that offer critiques and neuroses on society and politics. The self-deprecating lyrics have always been buoyed by a full, developed, orchestral sound.

Another thing that has highlighted The National’s previous releases is that despite being mired in sorrow, there was always an energy the band brought to its albums. It was a signature of many of the singles off previous releases.

But on “Trouble Will Find Me,” they don’t break out of their melodic torment enough. It is missing the ramp up of energy and freneticism that broke up the monotony of Berninger’s disparate baritone.

And the only real single off the album that fits the mold of the band’s previous releases is “Sea of Love.”

However, repeating the same thing from album to album would draw another criticism that the band has become stale. The National have been able to avoid being labeled with that disparagement, while retaining a distinctive sound that is clearly their own.

“Demons” highlights the group’s self-deprecating lyrical style with Berninger singing, “When I walk into a room, I do not light it up … I stay down with my demons.”

He continues on “Graceless,” which highlights the overwhelmed despair and anxiety of required or expected social achievements that often highlight the band’s tracks.

“Graceless, is there a powder to erase this?/ Is it dissolvable and tasteless?/ You can’t imagine how I hate this/ Graceless/ I’m trying but I am graceless, don’t have the sunny side to face this … I am not my rosy self/ left my roses on my shelf/ take the wild ones, they’re my favorites/ It’s the side effects that save us.”

Not to be drug down too deep in the broodiness, the balance comes in the building orchestral sounds created by the Dessners and Devendorfs. It is highlighted in “I need my Girl.” It brilliantly encompasses sound of Berninger’s voice, layer upon layer blending into a cohesive whole.

Before the album concludes, The National seem to nod to the old and take on the new with the confidence of a group that knows what it is — and has mastered its sound — with “Pink Rabbits.”

“I couldn’t find the quiet and I went out in the rain/ I was just soaking my head to un-rattle my brain/ Somebody said you disappeared in a crowd/ I didn’t understand then, I don’t understand now … It wasn’t like a rain, it was more like a sea/ I didn’t ask for this pain, it just came over me/ I love a storm, but I don’t love lightning/ All the water’s coming up so fast it’s frightening.”

It’s frightening to think this collection of artists will stop making music, but it may be for the best.

It would be disappointing to see the The National force together album after album if their collective hearts aren’t in it. For now, it sounds like they still are, and for all of their fans, maybe just once more?

Record rating: 8.9 out of 10

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About hoosierhits
The music blog of the News and Tribune, Jeffersonville & New Albany, Ind.

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