Review: The National, ‘Trouble Will Find Me’


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The National • Trouble Will Find Me • 4AD • US Release Date: May 21, 2013

The National: Matt Berninger; Aaron Dessner; Bryce Dessner; Bryan Devendorf; Scott Devendorf

Produced by Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner

The National have become one of the premiere indie darlings of late.  2010 effort High Violet blasted onto the Billboard Album Chart at number three with a respectable 51,000 copies sold.  The National’s latest, 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me matches High Violet’s lofty peak, but managed impressive sells of 75,000 copies.  Sure, a couple of years ago, 75,000 copies would’ve sounded like an album on its way to being a total flop, but for an indie band and for an album in this ‘album sales recession’, those numbers are practically ‘golden’.  Not only the numbers ‘golden’, so is the album itself. Consistent and enjoyable, Trouble Will Find Me should have no trouble connecting with its audience.

“I should live in salt for leaving you behind…” (“I Should Live in Salt”)

I Should Live In Salt” starts things off capably, if shy of exceptionality.  A rich palette of sounds greets the listener; when orchestrated together, the sound and feel is very organic. Arguably the opener’s coolest features is it’s timing hiccup, deviating from remaining in standard fare 4/4 time.  “Demons” may be more accomplished, despite the fact that frontman Matt Berninger’s baritone sometimes fights the production sounding in undertone and somewhat nonchalant.  “Demons” seems to set itself up for criticism, but as it develops, it turns out to be one of the highlights.  A catchy refrain (“But I stay down with my demons”) and a capable bridge (“…When I walk into a room I do not light up / f*ck…”) help endear those ‘godawful demons’!

Don’t Swallow the Cap” only ‘brightens’ things more, with superb songwriting (“…I have faith but don’t believe it / it’s not there enough to leave it…”) as well as solid arrangement/production, characterized by keyboards, haunting strings, and pummeling drums.  “Don’t Swallow the Cap” is arguably the valedictory track of Trouble Will Find Me.

“You keep a lot of secrets and I keep none / wish I could go back and keep some…” (“Fireproof”)

Even with the grandeur of “Don’t Swallow the Cap”, Trouble Will Find Me manages not to peak too soon. “Fireproof” may lack the same near-perfection level, but it does pretty daggone well for itself.  With a cool indie-/singer/songwriter vibe going, “Fireproof” is chill and relaxed, but manages to pack a sound punch. After all, “You’re fireproof / nothing breaks your heart…”.

Sea of Love” contrasts the restraint of “Fireproof” in favor of a more dynamic, quicker nature.  Here, the album’s titular lyrics makes it bow as Berninger sings “If I stay here, trouble will find me / if I stay here, I’ll never leave”.  As meaningful and intrepretive as that line may be, it is arguably the repetitive treatment of lines such as “…but they say love is a virtue, don’t they?” or “I see you rushing down / what did Harvard teach you” that shape the cut’s message and theme.  Another notable moment, “Sea of Love” falls short of the same punch of previous cuts.

“Through the glass again, just come and find me / God loves everybody, don’t remind me / I took the medicine and I went missing / Just let me hear your voice, just let me listen…” (“Graceless”)

Heavenfaced” has a spiritual-sounding production to match it’s celestial title.  Berninger’s baritone is incredibly subtle, barely conveying much emotion through his performance.  While that should stifle the emotion, Berninger’s casual nonchalance actually adds more ‘heaviness’. Enjoyable if a bit too ponderous, “Heavenfaced” fits the effort’s overall consistency.

This Is The Last Time” is among the least notable showings.  Even so, it has worthwhile moments and achieves no worse than a grade of a ‘B’. A bit long, Berninger’s sounds ever too casual.  “Graceless” atones, particularly given an established groove from the get-go. It may not supersede juggernaut “Don’t Swallow The Cap”, but it possesses exceptional songwriting and solid lead vocals.

“Got rings around me, I got baby to pound me / I see stars and go weak / my baby cries and lays me down / in the skies over black Venice / I see eyes of a white menace…” (“Humiliation)”

Slipped” compels, unified by a standout chorus: “But I’ll never be anything you ever want me to be / I keep coming back here where everything slipped…” The best lyric? “I’ll be a friend and a f*ck-up and everything…” “I Need My Girl” benefits from clever, humor such as “Remember when you lost your shit and drove into the garden? You got out and said I’m sorry to the vines and no one saw it…” while the chorus is a simple reiteration of the title.

Humiliation” is deeper, running neck-and-neck with “Don’t Swallow The Cap” for top honors on Trouble Will Find Me.  Filled with more clever one-liners and an unexpected change of groove/pace, “Humiliation” is ‘triumphant’.  “Pink Rabbits” keeps right on impressing even if the reflective frontman asks “Am I the one you think about when you’re sitting in your fainting chair drinking pink rabbits?” Closer “Hard to Find” brings nothing new or earth-shattering, but feels appropriately placed to conclude the album.

All-in-all, Trouble Will Find Me is one of 2013’s stronger albums.  It may not achieve the same glory that fellow indie collegues Vampire Weekend do with Modern Vampires of the City, but it certainly competes/compares favorably with Phoenix’s Bankrupt!. All 13 tracks are quality showings, with a select few truly making the effort ‘special’. A testament to artistry, Trouble Will Find Me finds The National’s stock continuing to ascend mightily.

Favorites: “Demons”; “Don’t Swallow the Cap”; “Fireproof”; “Humiliation”; “Pink Rabbits”

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