Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of the great ’90s band Stereolab, whose body of work was described by one rock critic as being so satisfying because it was “always different, always the same”. Now I’m starting to think this trait could also be applied to The National, as they’re six albums in and have yet to make any huge alterations to their signature brooding sound. Yet as Trouble Will Find Me reaffirms, they’re still so acutely aware of their strengths that they keep finding new ways of exploring these strengths without ever seeming like they’re falling back into comfortable old habits. Perhaps this is due to the uneasiness that has always been an integral part of The National’s music, and fortunately doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.
I could easily just tell you that Trouble Will Find Me is good “cuz it’s the National bein’ the National”, but let me indulge you just a little bit further. The songs here seem somewhat slicker and economical, as the string-laden grandiosity of High Violet has been muted considerably. A lot of this is used for a more intimate effect, which often harkens back to the acoustic sincerity of 2007’s Boxer. And yet at the same time, The National manage to fit in a couple chugging rockers with “Sea Of Love” and “Graceless”, which show that this band is still capable of crafting festival-bound showstoppers. Overall, Trouble Will Find Me is maybe a little longer than it needs to be, as “Pink Rabbits” for me feels like it should be the last track, but considering it’s second to last, it’s a small quibble.
In many ways, Trouble Will Find Me could be considered just an amalgam of everything that’s made this band great in the past, which made me beg the question: Why does this feel like another triumph, when an album that similarly saw a great band revisiting familiar territory like The King Of Limbs, felt like a disappointment? And I think there’s a number of reasons – one being that we’ve come to expect different things from Radiohead than The National. Also, The King Of Limbs felt kind of tossed off, while The National have continued to make it a habit of being incredibly meticulous every time out, filling their albums with an abundance of musical nuggets that almost demand scrupulous re-listening. The same can be said for Matt Berninger’s lyrics, which are still full of charming non sequiturs (like this post’s title) that can’t help but rattle around in your head as you go about your seemingly mundane day.
Favorite Tracks: “Sea Of Love”, “Graceless”, “Pink Rabbits”