June 25;American indie rock band The National’s sixth album Trouble Will Find Me is something their fans and new listeners alike will lap up almost instantly. Continuing in the vein of their previous release High Violet, TWFM has all the characteristics that make the band so highly rated: lead singer Matt Berninger’s baritone, multiple guest performers, abstract lyrics, a richly distorted guitar melody, and an alternating bright and dark piano sound underlined by a baroque-esque string arrangement, creating a beautifully cohesive sound; and the fact that most listeners will lose themselves to the music almost instantly.
Despite the striking similarity to High Violet, an informed listener will immediately pick up on the finer nuances of this album: the complex melodies, a more textural sound, and, if it was possible, even more abstract and whimsical lyrics.
Matt Berninger’s lyrics have always been open to interpretation, but he pulls out all the tricks on this one. The songs are wordy, poetic, even incomprehensible at times, eschewing the typical rhyming scheme for a more spoken word format. The reason this works so well is because of Berninger’s distinctive, almost dreamy, voice. And even though the themes of estrangement, loneliness, drug use, among others, are not uncommon, the subtle yet clever wordplay gives the lyrics real depth. The fact that the lyrics blend with the music, rather than play above them, is what gives each song a distinctive quality despite keeping the arrangements more or less the same for the entire duration of the album.
If the opener ‘I Should Live In Salt’ – which is strikingly similar in composition to High Violet’s opener ‘Terrible Love’ – is an open letter to Berninger’s brother, a personal favourite – ‘Humiliation’ – is a lament about the empty life of the rich, while ‘Sea Of Love’ is about a seemingly perfect relationship gone sour due to the narrator’s insecurities. The dark lyrics manage to perfectly complement the haunting, mostly lingering melody that chugs along in the background almost seamlessly from song to song – a quality that makes the album larger than the sum of its individual tracks; tracks that are stand-outs by themselves.
The casual listener will definitely find something to appreciate here; but with time, you will discover a true gem of an album that, in the words of Berninger, will leave you ‘sad and high’.