Review Summary: Lyrically, the most impeccable outing in the past decade. The album is beautiful, bleak, sublime and charming all at the same time.
Well, where do I start?
The National have always had a special place in my heart. Only just jumping on the bandwagon during High Violet's initial launch, I consider myself a huge (longish time) fan of Matt Berninger and his down-to-earth baritone voice. Now, I could simply go on about how much I love Trouble Will Find Me as National fan, because simply put, it has everything I want in an outing such as this; catchy yet thought-provoking hooks, subtle humour, daunting rhythms etc. But TWFM is so much better, TWFM is lyrically, the most impeccable outing in the past decade.
Berninger's heart-wrenching verses are what truly make TWFM shine. Over the first listen, many of his lines completely flew over me; it wasn't until repeated listens that I understood many of his sorrowful harmonies. Subtle lines such as "There's a science to walking through windows without you" and "It takes a lot of rain in the cup" represent a very mature, melancholic version of Berninger. It'd almost be too cliché to call this the most mature National album to date; however, Berninger, whilst always being sophisticated, has most certainly improved on his lyricism. TWFM beautifully finds a balance of sorrow and comfort, and while never being outright and excessively pessimistic, there's most definitely a sense of depression throughout; (probably from years of drinking).
Yet, throughout his gloomy lyricism, the rest of the band members still manage to back up his harmonies charmingly; this is what makes the album so accessible no matter what mood you're in. Man, how I missed those backup vocals on 'Sea of Love' that haven't been present since 'Secret Meeting' on Alligator.
TWFM also finds a great balance of High Violet's production and Alligator's melodies. Whilst TWFM is not as upbeat as the artist's previous outings, it still manages to be exciting throughout. As well as this, the addition of St. Vincent and Sufjan Stevens, (two dear favourites of mine) truly add a magical atmosphere to the album, while never detracting from the main artists. Annie Clark's vocals and Sufjan Steven's drums/synths beautiful enrich each National song they are present in.
Despite being fairly long at 55 minutes, The National manage to make every song on the album poetic and pleasing. Over the first listen, there may not be many hooks to grab your attention throughout the slowly-paced middle section of the album, and that may exempt many listeners from what is otherwise a rich album. My only other complaint would have to be the slow-burning outer, 'Hard to Find.' Whilst I do prefer a National closer that is slow paced (Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, Gospel), over a fast paced one (Mr. November), I still think this song is quite weak as a closer, and sort of drags the album on for a little longer than it should. Whilst the song has most definitely grown on me, I still think the album works well enough ending on its best song, Pink Rabbits.
That being said, it's hard to press a 5 on this album, despite it being my favourite album of the year thus far. However, TWFM will always have a special place in my heart, no matter what score it receives. The album is beautiful, bleak, sublime and charming all at the same time. I dearly recommend TWFM to all National fans, and to all those whom favour the genre.
Favourite Tracks (Do I have to keep this to a minimum amount?):
Don't Swallow the Cap