Cincinnati, Ohio group The National found their place in music within the early 2000s rock revival with their brand of rustic indie rock and brooding lyrics.
Over their now 20-year-long career, the band have developed from a simpler style of indie melody to creating larger soundscapes, which led to them receiving a GRAMMY in 2018 for Best Alternative Music Album for ‘Sleep Well Beast’. Now, two years later, they’ve continued to experiment with the release of their eighth LP, ‘I Am Easy To Find’.
‘You Had Your Soul With You’ kicks off the album with a fun and punchy electric guitar riff, rhythmic drum beat, and the soft vocals of Matt Berninger that draw you into a quick sway movement. Whilst this is a fun song, it sets up a false pretence for the album to come, which, for the most part, is slow and melodic.
Summing up the album’s tempo and tone more accurately is ‘Hey Rosey’. The instrumentation slowly builds throughout the song behind the chorus, “Hey Rosey, I think I know what the feeling is”, until it hits its most powerful sound at the end of the track before fading off.
The record’s title-track is similar in tone, but with a far more experimental soundscape. Using the classical piano alongside electric keys, the vocals of British artist Kate Stables and what sounds like tweeting birds in mix provides a unique song that demonstrates The National‘s playful attitude towards creating a solemn sound.
‘Not In Kansas’ is a nearly 7-minute long balled that strips everything back to display Beringer‘s talent as a songwriter, accompanied by only a guitar, subtle orchestral backing, and some vocal interludes from Irish singer Lisa Hannigan. This track really bares the soul of the album.
Things conclude with a piano piece, ‘Light Years’, which rounds the record off in a beautiful and soulful way that brings you nothing but peace. It feels like a big stretch from where the album began, but definitely at home with the tone of this release.
Whilst each song here has its own merits, some cut a bit too similar to each other, and others feel like they’re from a different time in the band’s career altogether. There are certainly moments that could be trimmed off that would only benefit the record and stop it from dragging in places, but where The National get it right there’s a certain beauty and intelligence to ‘I Am Easy To Find’.