The National - Trouble Will Find Me
A great sixth record, but not one which parades the fact before you
The idea that much of the music here was written by guitarist Aaron Desner while bedevilled by bone-aching fatigue and sleepless nights following the birth of his baby daughter is a compelling one. It ties into the sense of a band shattered after the near two-year touring schedule which accompanied 2010’s breakthrough record High Violet, a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and the sense of foggy elation and prickly world-weariness here is one which both new parents and musicians who have been swept up in the tide of fame will no doubt recognise.
This is a great record, but it isn’t one which parades the fact before you. ‘I Should Live in Salt’ reintroduces us to the worn leather creak of Matt Berninger’s voice as he wearily coaxes a partner with the words ‘you should know me better than that’, resigned and sick of it all already. ‘Demons’ is more strident, with Berninger rousing himself to yearn ‘I do not think I’m going places any more / I wanna see the sun come up above me’, a crystalline evocation of physical and emotional fatigue. Musically this record finds a nexus between the expansive alternafolk of Arcade Fire and the mid-life mourning of Nick Cave’s more measured moments, from the sleek, upbeat driving rock of ‘Don’t Swallow the Cap’ to the crooned country laments ‘Heavenfaced’ and ‘This is the Last Time’.
It’s a record which seduces on its own terms; one from which it’s hard to pick highlights but which serves best in one sitting, its cumulative hopeful sadness seeping into the soul. Occasionally the pace picks up, as on the New Wave rush of ‘Graceless’, but this is generally music which walks with the weight of troubled times on its shoulders, from ‘Humiliation’s delicate mantra (‘one day I lost the job / and I cried a little / got fried a little’) to the Leonard Cohen-like sense of mournful loss shooting through ‘Hard to Find’ (‘don’t know why we had to lose / ones who took so little space’).