After seven albums you might think you’d know a band and their sound pretty well. As Brooklyn’s The National have grown from cult indie band to Grammy winners, long term fans will have settled into their music stylings: pretty much America’s favourite liberal rock band.
But their eighth LP is something of a curveball. These 16 tracks are, unequivocally, National songs, and yet they hold little of the immediacy of their predecessors. There is familiarity, but alongside that come strings, samples, new song lengths and structures. The upshot is that on early listens “I Am Easy To Find” sounds dream-like and misshapen. It takes a while for this to pass, but as the best moments begin to emerge from the fog, they stand up against the bands best work.
“Where is Her Head” is a rhythmic clatter with shades of Arcade Fire and Brocken Social Scene, while the near seven minutes of Not In Kansas is an homage to a golden yesteryear. It all comes together most succinctly on the duet “Hey Rosey”, where one of Bowie’s old collaborators – Gail Ann Dorsey sings low and steady and with a force that goes beyond the barbed lyrics.
It’s a shake up of things indeed, but a welcome one for a band as assured as these guys.
Like this? Try these:
Gail Ann Dorsey The Corporate World
Cult favourite from Bowie’s old bass player.
This Is The Kit Moonshine Freeze
Gorgeous folk from Kate Stables’s long-running project.
Mina Tindle Parades
The National collaborator on fine pop form.