Album review: The National, Trouble Will Find Me (4AD)
Album of the Week: Alt-rock's lurkers cement a stealthy rise to success
Slowly but surely, Brooklyn quintet The National have developed over a decade from modest alt.country beginnings to the point where they can draw 10,000 fans to an Obama rally. That they have retained serious artistic credibility while doing so – they recently played the same song for six hours as part of an artwork, and The Kronos Quartet has commissioned an album of guitarist Bryce Dessner's compositions – speaks volumes about the virtues of their approach.
The warm but haunting Trouble Will Find Me will surely cement their accession to the rock mainstream. It's both the most personal, and most melodically welcoming, of their albums, its subtle, multi-layered arrangements seeming to hover weightlessly while Matt Berninger's lyrics drill into emotionally troubling territory. The characters in the songs seem rather English in their quiet desperation, particularly conveyed in Berninger's sombre baritone. “I'm having trouble inside my skin, I'm trying to keep my skeleton in,” sings the protagonist of “Slipped”; while the repeated invocation “You should know me better than that” in “I Should Live in Salt” is like someone gently picking at an emotional scab of regret. The restrained self-assessment in “Demons” – “I'm going through an awkward phase” – could apply to virtually all these mini-psychodramas.
But whatever the emotional trauma, the tone never slips into hysteria, even when the drummer Bryan Devendorf is powering “Humiliation” along with a crunching Neu! motorik. And there's an engrossing diffidence about the Dessner twins' guitars, their riffs knitted from delicate, cycling arpeggios layered with wisps and smears of guitar noise. Sometimes the momentum builds like Arcade Fire, but more often the music surrounds the song like a shell, akin to the emotional carapace depicted in “Fireproof”. These are songs which acknowledge how the lurking power of feelings can just as readily numb, or stun, as drive one to paroxysms of cathartic emoting, and that the quiet ones are often the ones to watch out for.
Download: Pink Rabbits; I Should Live in Salt; Fireproof; Humiliation
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Crystal meth addict 'gouged out his eyes and ate them' while high on drug, Australian MP claims
- 2 Saudi Arabia 'seeking to head United Nations Human Rights Council'
- 3 Irish people are travelling home from all over the world so they can vote to legalise gay marriage
- 4 Witch doctor arrested after forcing newborn baby to walk in Indian village
- 5 Arsenal fan asks the Queen for tickets to the FA Cup final - gets a reply from Buckingham Palace
Cannes Film Festival rejects women from red-carpet screening of pro-LGBT romance 'Carol' for not wearing high heels
'We didn't really think we'd get away with it': The astonishing story of how two young Irish men completed an audacious £7m art heist
Game of Thrones rape scene criticised as 'disgusting' by US senator Claire McCaskill who says she's 'done' with show
Eurovision Song Contest 2015 final: As Google celebrates the competition with a Doodle, here are 7 things you might not know
Beyonce angers fans by pouring expensive champagne into hot tub in Nicki Minaj 'Feeling Myself' video
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland