The National: Trouble Will Find Me (4AD)

“He thinks indie rock is pretentious bullshit.”

These are the words that bitterly spill out of Matt Berninger’s mouth in an interview discussing his Brother’s outlook on his band and it's a frustration that The National must be incredibly familiar with by now. For anyone who has merely dipped their toes in The National’s discography, there is no doubt that they are a band that require a certain patience. Without scratching past their exterior, The National can be shallowly dismissed for their ‘gloomy’, ‘dull’ and ‘humdrum’ nature. However, for those willing to take the plunge and immerse themselves with perseverance, you can eventually begin hear why they deserve to be acknowledged as one of the most defining bands of our era.

However with the release of ‘Trouble Will Find Me’, it seems like there has been a shift in this traditional formula relating to the band. Without compromising their signature pounding rhythms, goosebump-inducing musicality and deeply sincere baritone vocal lines, The National have created their most digestible and melodically strong record to date. For a band that pride themselves on intricate and advanced technicalities, the album’s instantly gratifying opener 'I Should Live In Salt' juxtaposes such complexities with a confidently strummed acoustic guitar melody that meets with grandiose drum fills and soaring string arrangements that ooze charm. From this point onwards, the 13 track record hosts a variety of narratives that confront Berninger’s anxieties and desires and it is apparent that the lead man has never sounded more comfortable in his own skin. "When I walk into a room/I do not light it up/ Fuck" confesses the lead man in a tongue-in-cheek fashion during the indisputably honest ‘Demons’ and this displays a self-awareness that is rarely found in musicianship. They know that their music won’t be chosen to soundtrack the launch of a new ride at Alton Towers but the truth is: they’re content in being discontent. Delicate tracks like ‘Fireproof’ and ‘I Need My Girl’ embrace their deeply melancholic essence in both their vocal and instrumental direction. Meanwhile, this sombre sentiment also threads through tracks that are more musically upbeat on the album such as ‘This Is The Last Time’ (featuring vocal harmonies from the enchanting Sharon Van Etten) and ‘Humiliation’ which is distinguished by its charmingly warm piano chords and heartfelt guitar and synthesised subtleties that illuminate the track.

Gaining an overwhelming response within the blogosphere ‘Trouble Will Find Me’ also flooded in to the mainstream sphere reaching the starry heights of no. 3 in the UK, Canadian and US charts. The Ohio-via-Brooklyn based rockers have sat comfortable on their throne as one of the finest indie rock bands of the twenty-first century for a considerable amount of time now and with the release of ‘TWFM’, they have every reason to remain at ease. This isn’t pretentious bullshit, this is sincerely honest music that has never been easier to absorb.

Words: George Hemmati | Illustration: Peculiar Man

AuthorDuncan Harrison