It’s not like The National is my favourite band. I have no personal lengthy relationship with them, it’s just a sprout of attraction, maybe signalling a start of one, that sometimes flourishes beautifully, but other times it’s on the verge of drying up. Nevertheless, I would go to their concert if I had the chance, push my way to the front row and possibly buy their T-shirt after the show. The ambiguity of my feelings towards the band is a riddle, but not a very difficult one as will become evident with my experience with their most recent album Trouble Will Find Me.
Bad news first, right? I cannot help but feel especially dissatisfied with songs like “Fireproof”, “I Need My Girl”, and “Slipped”. It’s like there’s this flow of tiring monotony running through half The National’s repertoire – melodically, vocally and lyrically. Usually I’m a sucker for melancholic songs if the aching feeling is conveyed so that I almost feel it, too, but this kind of feeble, relentless, almost numb, and ‘produced’ sadness that these songs offer is just not appealing anymore, and thus, they lose the point of their existence. More to the point, they appear as if they are cheap replicas of other songs by The National, replaying the themes and melodies and nuances of vocals, but all that in a downscaled manner, with an emptier feeling attached to them. Consequently, it is difficult to cherish these songs, if they don’t seemingly offer anything original or thoroughly felt, as compared to some of their more enchanting songs on the album that will be discussed later.
At the same time, I must say that the choruses just might save these songs if the conditions are right. For example, there is a ridiculous difference to the effect and impact of this album based on whether it’s listened during the daylight, or when the night is looming closer and it’s dark outside. If I had to suggest anything with this album, I would recommend listening to it closer to the night time as the difference to it, in my experience, is curious and profound. It cannot be denied that this is highly subjective, but I think it’s worth a try to hear for yourself. Another thing I would point out is that it might not be a good idea to listen to the whole album at once for it’s truly loaded with heavier themes and sighing-matters, and maybe, just maybe, because of the overload of these themes and respective sounds, I couldn’t fairly appreciate all the songs on the album. Although, “Fireproof” would still most probably remain an unpleasant stain on the whole album.
The good news about this album is not only good, but great. There are songs on this album that cause the aforementioned sprout of attraction for the band bloom all the way. Songs that are alive and whole, beautifully conceptualised, uniting the three facilities – melodic, vocal, lyric – into a true force of authentic, felt music that has a true, established and respectable character. “Sea of Love”, “This Is The Last Time”, and “Humiliation” – these are the songs I would go and push myself into the front row for and buy the T-shirt even if it means I’ll be completely broke. That’s right.
These songs cannot be elaborated on as if they were one homogenous group; each one of them has its own unique elements that add greatly to the sound of the whole album. Songs like “Sea of Love”, “This Is The Last Time” and “Humiliation” are the first I would put on the pedestal. “Sea of Love” starts with this feeling of urgency, owing it to the rhythm, as if some emotional outburst should be released via this song, of course the matter is grave, too, hence the implication. Also, it seems like during the bridge the release was achieved, and from then on the song sounds fresh and vibrant, plus the urgency is gone. It is this existence of structures and elaborate concepts and stories within the songs that work so well together with the harmonious synthesis of the three facilities mentioned above, that give The National’s best music the air of quality. For example, “This Is The Last Time” is undoubtedly the song I fell most violently in love with, just the magical melody, the singer’s devoted voice perfectly adjusted to the music, the faint female vocals in the background, and the feeling of false calm (because the lyrics suggest the opposite) have this soft, but also a pinching and slightly aching sense to it. “Humiliation” is different from all the songs in the album due to its atmospheric quality and a sense of motion. I bet it’s the song to listen to while driving a car on a particularly magical day, or better off, night.
The air of urgency describes most of the songs in one way or another, and urgency urges, yes, for instance, it urges me to search for my own metaphysical tunnels on the inside in a mild frenzy, because the music compels me to somehow, and I think it’s important that it’s capable to produce such an effect. The National also makes good use of repetition, in most cases I find that it works, and the result might be that these repetitions become thought-provoking lines on the mind. This actually applies to the lyrics of this album in general, just the repetitions could leave a stronger imprint, naturally. So, if you need to take a good look into yourself, this might be the album for some.
The title Trouble Will Find Me is not a name of a particular song, but rather a theme for the whole album, which finds complete justification if you listen to the songs. It’s kind of a bittersweet world, but mostly a rewarding one at that music-wise.