Comfortable with themselves, The National takes step back

Published 6:28 am Sunday, June 2, 2013

On “Trouble Will Find Me,” The National feels like a band comfortable in its own skin.

The National is coming off a hot streak of two aggressively cerebral albums, “Boxer” and “High Violet.

The National’s sixth studio album isn’t a grand change of direction, but the band takes a step back.

Partially due to singer Matt Berninger’s somber-sounding baritone and the group’s graduate school persona, The National are often viewed as a thoughtful but gloomy band.

Despite a gloomy name, “Trouble Will Find Me” plays more relaxed and a little less somber than The National’s prior two releases. The emotions are more subtle, but the band’s delivery is still poignant and direct.

Guitarist and keyboardist Aaron Dessner started writing the new music with his newborn daughter, Stella, in mind and sent recordings to Berninger, who reportedly reacted in a “very visceral, immediate, infantile way.”

The songs ease off the aggression of the “High Violet” and “Boxer” to float in a more ambient direction.

While drummer Bryan Devendorf propelled “High Violet” and “Boxer” with aggressive drums, he backs off on parts of “Trouble Will Find Me.” That driving force is still there on songs like “Sea of Love,” which feels a bit like a brighter take of “High Violet.”

“Graceless” is closest The National comes to the blistered attack of “High Violet” tracks like “Terrible Love.” The song is a paced climax to the album and leaves a lingering taste of something missing.

But the drums and driving forces slip into the background on many songs like “Heavenfaced” and “Slipped” allowing visceral, atmospheric sounds to take the forefront.

The album is dedicated to the band’s children, which is fitting since it feels a touch domesticated compared to the group’s catalogue. For much of the album, the band plays comfortably and subdued.


Did you know?

The National consists of singer Matt Berninger and two sets of brothers: Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Bryan and Scott Devendorf. Berninger’s brother, Matt, followed the band on its most recent tour and made a documentary, “Mistaken for Strangers,” which is named for one of the band’s songs.

It premiered at Tribeca Film Festival on April 17.