The National - Trouble Will Find Me

The National - Trouble Will Find Me

Rating: 3/5

With every listen of The National’s latest, I have become more and more conflicted. This time around, should I be expecting something refreshing and innovative from the Brooklyn quintet? Or should I be satisfied with something familiar, a more reassuring release?

In brief, Trouble Will Find Me reiterates the charming and distinctive elements of previous albums, with elegance and sophistication inherent in every track. Matt Berninger’s gentle and nonchalant crooning is once again compelling, set against a sonorous and driving ensemble. It is the lushest and slickest sounding of all their albums, which unfortunately is to its detriment. The National’s grit and energy, initially so vital to their aesthetic, has been almost completely filed away, traded for an accessible veneer.

Mood-wise, opener “I Should Live in Salt” sets a mournful, wistful tone, crafting a melancholic atmosphere that frames the entirety of the album. Tracks such as “Demons,” “Sea of Love” and “Graceless” are trademark compositions, adorned with rolling percussion and waves of churning guitars, sullen pianos and euphoric strings – surely satisfying any existing fans. Lyrically, it is far from uplifting; regret, fragility, nostalgia, and loneliness are frequently the thematic base of Berninger’s moody ballads, notably “I am in trouble, can’t get these thoughts out of me.”

After the acclaim of 2010’s High Violet, the band broke free from their peripheral “alternative rock” chains, attracting an expansive and diverse new audience. Though The National maintains their consummate songwriting standard with Trouble Will Find Me, they’re in danger of alienating their devout cult audience – the album’s distilled and polished packaging emanates the vibe of a soon-to-be-overplayed coffee shop soundtrack. Maybe, as Berninger prophetically drones, they’re “just going through an awkward phase.”
This article first appeared in Issue 14, 2013.
Posted 6:05pm Sunday 7th July 2013 by Richard Ley-Hamilton.