There seems to be few things that will quell the angst of The National. Five records in, the enduringly excellent, albeit relentlessly sombre, Brooklynites’ passion for all things miserable continues unabated. This being their forte, and a main pull of their act, this is not surprising. What is surprising is that this formula continues to work- and it works just as well as ever on their latest record Trouble Will Find Me.
Perhaps it’s New York, a city that’s miserable band pedigree is rivalled only by Seattle. Earning their stripes in its dingy backrooms, The National have now reached both legendary cult statues and arena level popularity, and on this record their songs have never been so anthemic or passionate. If NYC once represented the gateway to a land of opportunity, The National by no means have caught on to the optimism; even if their success practically embodies it.
Opener ‘I Should Live In Salt’ gets the ball rolling spectacularly; a lonely, heartfelt lament with the constant refrain “You should know me better than that” – a refrain that captures the mysterious, self-referential nature of the record and of The National as a whole. Cryptic, intensely personal lyrics continue throughout Trouble Will Find Me, aiding and abetting the brooding atmosphere of the musicianship excellently. Elsewhere, ‘Don’t Swallow The Cap’ is stunning in its worried, melancholic sadness and ‘Sea Of Love’ insistent beat and understated harmonica almost border on uplifting; a feeling quickly extinguished after one listen to the lyrics.
‘Hard To Find’ fades the record out, but the sadness that has lingered throughout it remains poignantly after its close. This may be a particularly personal, autobiographical record but it is one that is so affecting that it could concern anyone, so universal are its themes and so vivid is its evocation of sadness. The National can easily be accused of being depressing, but with an LP as resonant as this, they can’t justifiably be called self-indulgent.
Released on 21 May 2013 by 4AD