ALBUM REVIEW: The National – I Am Easy To Find | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Released: 17.05.19

 

 

 

 

 

Image by Graham MacIndoe

Writing about The National has become a kind of sub-genre of its own within the music press. It’s a story that has been told countless times, one that you can read it elsewhere, but there are two key points to keep in mind – firstly, that each new release pushes their signature sound and style forward gently, almost incrementally. Secondly, they don’t typically deal in surprises. Which is why nobody was really expecting I Am Easy To Find to turn up less than two years after the Grammy-winning Sleep Well Beast.

Sleep Well Beast felt like a small, logical step away from its predecessors, but I Am Easy To Find sounds like it could very well mark a new chapter for The National. Big name guests have featured on The National’s records for years now, but here the boundaries between the band and the guest stars are blurred. This is The National operating as a collective of like-minded creatives, and as such new life is breathed into the existing formula.

Opening track, You Had Your Soul With You, features the wrenching and powerful voice of Gail Ann Dorsey taking over a verse, but it’s really just a taste of what’s to come, as vocals across the album are split between Matt Berninger and the likes of Lisa Hannigan, Sharon Van Etten, Kate Stables from This Is The Kit, and more. Berninger is even completely absent from late-album track Dust Swirls In Strange Light, with Brooklyn Youth Chorus instead taking sole vocal duties.

There’s actually very few tracks that fall into a traditional National model, and even those relatively quiet moments can throw curve balls. Not In Kansas shifts from Berninger’s personal reflection and introspection on our place in the world (“My mother needs an army/ But I’m leaving home and scared that I won’t have the balls to punch a Nazi”) into gorgeous, choral existential questioning.

Densely layered with strings throughout, willing to take risks (see the mostly chanted Where Is Her Head, the aforementioned Not In Kansas, and the woozy spoken word sections of The Pull Of You), I Am Easy To Find is effortlessly masterful. Two years after their biggest commercial success, The National may have just released the album that will become their new benchmark.

 

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