The amount of song craft that comes with an album by The National is never short of mesmerizing. There’s an energy or perhaps a tension between the members that feels like the songs you’re hearing could be the last that the band creates together. On their new album I Am Easy to Find that gets ratcheted up several links and the band takes you on a journey to a world that it feels like they were the architects for.
Essentially, this album is a painting. The canvas gets brush strokes of nuance and brilliance, but it’s coming from other places than from the members themselves. The album clocks in at over an hour, the band takes new steps into a new world, yet it’s the contributions of others on the album that stand out the most. The opener “You Had Your Soul With You” isn’t anything new from these guys, in fact if you heard it without knowing who sang it, you’d know it was a song by The National. Though the vocals by Gail Ann Dorsey add a nice touch, thus getting you ready for an album rife with guest vocals that help paint the picture. Where “Quiet Light” actually has two string orchestras on it, it’s the song “Oblivions” featuring Pauline de Lassus on lead vocals that really stands out. The female lead takes the song to a new place while the band builds the track up and up from beginning to end.
This is continuous throughout the record. “Her Father In The Pool” has guest vocals from the Brooklyn Youth Chorus that gives the song a shape and a depth that The National have never really had in several albums, though it’s a vignette rather than a full track. Eve Owens’ vocals add an airy weight to “Where Is Her Head,” while “Not In Kansas” has the sort of notations that feel like it was made for a film’s soundtrack-something that makes sense of the film the band made accompanying this album. The song may be the biggest stand out track of the record, as the entire release feels like one piece rather than a string of singles-meaning songs work in tandem rather than stand alone on their own.
There’s a lot of ambition here that sometimes falls flat, and sometimes works better than you’d expect, but that’s what makes it so intriguing. Not everyone will love this album and that feels like the point. By taking themselves out of the equation, The National grows their sound with the help of those around them and paint a picture of growth. Essentially, because music has gotten to where it’s a world of singles collected together and called an album, because our attention is meant to be kept every eleven seconds-this album feels foreign because it’s none of that. This is a painting in a world of selfies, and we need to appreciate the painter’s brushstrokes.
I Am Easy to Find is available to stream on all streaming sites, it can be purchased digitally in all online music retailers or it can be purchased physically directly from 4AD Records. The National is on tour starting June 11 in Philadelphia, PA at Mann Center until December 10 in Nottingham, UK at Nottingham Motorpoint Arena. The band’s complete tour schedule can be accessed here.
Image Credits: Photo by Graham Macindoe.