THE NATIONAL, I am Easy to Find (4AD, 2019)
PERSONNEL: Matt Berninger (vocals); Aaron Dessner (guitar, keyboards); Bryce Dessner (Guitar); Bryan Devendorf (drums); Scott Devendorf (Bass)
- You Had Your Soul With You
- Quiet Light
- Roman Holiday
- The Pull of You
- Hey Rosey
- I Am Easy to Find
- Her Father in the Pool
- Not in Kansas
- So Far So Fast
- Dust Swirls in Strange Light
- Hairpin Turns
- Light Years
Rarely does pathos sound so pleasurable.
The National has cemented itself as one of the mainstays of Indie rock. I Am Easy to Find is a great demonstration of why. The band creates and plays songs of great depth and genuine emotion, taking listeners to the well of their own souls, albeit in in highly listenable fashion.
With the baritone voice of Matt Berninger as its center, The National uses tight grooves and spacious arrangements to tantalize the listener into an almost trance-like state. Lest it fall into a musical rut, the band has taken its arrangements to a new level, adding the voices of female singers like Gail Ann Dorsey and Mina Tindle, among others, not as mere background, but as a co-lead voice and counterpoint to Berninger. The sound is rich and deep, giving each song just what it needs to thrive.
The band makes the most of its traditional instrumentation of open, clean guitar, tender keys, single-note, lingering bass, and judiciously used drums. They have also added electronic elements to give the music a more frenetic sound on top, while still maintaining the languid pace underneath.
The songwriting is as strong as ever (“You had your soul with you / I was in no mood / Drift away and I could forget / I had only one last feather left”), evoking emotions and personal images destined to linger, particularly on songs like “You Had Your Soul with You,” “Oblivious,” and “Roman Holiday.” Even “Rylan,” the most uptempo tune on the record, doesn’t let you get too high on the world where the band thrives.
The National has found and established its sound, to the delight of audiences the world over. Their studio sounds translates perfectly to the stage, where Berninger and company almost seem to play their pathos a little tongue-in-cheek.
I Am Easy to Find is accompanied by a 26-minute film of the same name by Mike Mills, no doubt adding additional depth to what was already an emotional experience. Not to worry: this is a trip well worth taking.
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