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Vamos on the Music: The National, 'Trouble Will Find Me'

01-13-2017 | By Michael Vamos | Issue 89

The National's sixth album, Trouble Will Find Me, continues the Brooklyn-based band's streak of melancholy mellow, indie rock. It's reminiscent of the rhythms and monotone vocals of Joy Division and with the suffer-in-silence-like lyrics of The Smiths. "Don't Swallow The Cap" and "Graceless" are dead ringers for Joy Division songs. Singer Matt Berninger and band have again managed to make us feel privileged to suffer with them, enveloped in sonic landscapes that mostly employ their trademark fast drums, background synths, and the occasional guitar riff. Yet most of the album's best tracks are the slow songs without the band's trademark pounding drums.

The National Trouble Will Find Me

People often remark, "It's depressing to listen to sad lyrics!" I always felt it was the other way around. Knowing others have also suffered and lost, in love and in life, makes you feel less isolated and less crazy.

"Fireproof" is the album's absolute best song, where Matt, yet again, in his wry baritone voice, pleads to his love as well to himself:  "You tell me you're waiting to find someone who isn't so hopeless. There's no one." A simple guitar continuously strings along with Matt's excellent lyrics. Subdued marching drums beat in the background of this, the most musical song of the album. You keep waiting for the song to erupt, but the lack of explosion at the track's sudden end is just right. It ends with:  "You're fireproof. Wish I was that way."

The album seems to ask: "Why am I continually involved with woman I know will hurt me?" But Matt and band continually fails to provide an answer. Unlike most tracks from High Violet, The National's previous great album, Trouble Will Find Me has several songs that build in intensity. This is a welcome change from their usual melody structure, where songs keep the same intensity from start to finish. "Heavenfaced" starts quietly, but slowly builds. At the end of the song, Matt's voice reaches new highs, singing words of hope:  "Because we'll all arrive in heaven alive. We'll all arrive."

"I Need My Girl" starts with a quiet jazzy guitar riff that continues throughout as the song builds. The song is one of the album's best, and it gets better with each listen. On the quiet but pleasing "Pink Rabbits," Matt sings:  "You said it would be painless. It wasn't that at all"—once again reminding us that living and loving are a bittersweet affairs. Don't miss the melodic ending of, "This Is The Last Time".

Listening to the album is like being invited into a secret cozy lair of fellow sufferers, who understand you and your problems. Once inside, The National boys invite you over to their table. Their sad lyrics and melodic soundscapes are the warm and comfortable quilt you pull over your ears to ease away your pain as you enjoy the minimalist music. The record grows on you, and you'll soon find yourself humming their tracks on your way through life.

Trouble Will Find Me is quieter than their previous album High Violet, but if you enjoyed their previous albums, you'll also enjoy this more intimate offering.

Michael Vamos is the proprietor of Audio Skies, which distributes GamuT Audio, Larsen, Pear Audio Blue, and ESP Speakers.