With The National’s last release High Violet, mid-life dread was floating everywhere; it was the perfect “hip white people’s problems” disk. The band apparently scrapped thousands of hours of music to get the right sonic tone and texture and in that department there are few (if any) indie bands that can rival them (Spoon and Radiohead come to mind). Trouble Will Find Me gives way to a little bit of a lighter feeling. Things are never fun or exhilarating (this won’t change with the band) and lyrics still dwell in failure and regret (something else unlikely to change) but there is true confidence of sound here.
“I Should Live In Salt” opens acoustically simple but progressively the band adds keys as the song swells, tactfully done and pleasant; a pattern which reoccurs on a number of these tracks. On “Demons” Matt Berninger dominates with an almost spoken word phrasing where he monotonically mopes; Berninger’s voice is the biggest hurdle to leap with The National, if another vocalist tackled this track it could be immense.
“Fireproof” plays with angular piano and guitar lines that fight while moving in different directions as electro-bass swells. “Sea of Love” has a pulsing beat and feels like a dance track from this outfit even with lyrics expressing clear cut regret and pain, recorded in one take it is one of the most complete and satisfying tracks they have produced.
The drums pair nicely with the piano and keyboards for “Don’t Swallow The Cap” while bass pulses on “Fireproof” accentuate acoustic guitar picking. Lyrically things go from serious to silly on the piano piece “Heavenfaced” and “Humiliation” (“Guns and noses” that’s really sung there?) but Berninger’s words for “Pink Rabbits” are spot on. The looping drums of Bryan Devendorf are fantastic for the lazy texture of the guitar working together wonderfully as the rising lyric of “You didn’t see me I was falling apart/I was a white girl in a crowd of white girls in the park/You didn’t see me I was falling apart/I was a television version of a person with a broken heart”, an excellent overall effort.
The same main complaints exist (namely Berninger’s vocals) and this immaculately crafted disk won’t convert anyone new, but fans will love the end result, strengthening the bands core. Musically there are layers and layers to sift through as the sound is lush and gorgeous. Trouble Will Find Me lightens the mood around the band, but if this is their cutting loose maybe they need a weekend bender together before their next release.