After a 14-year career, you’d think The National would be feeling pretty secure by now. The success of its tour for High Violet should have launched the group into the stratosphere of success and bloated the ego just a smidgen. Yet, The National couldn’t even give in to the mainstream world’s cult of fame. Trouble Will Find Me, released this May, is a manifesto of artistic vision and the members’ feeling of maturity. Guitarist Aaron Dessner adds that “sleep deprivation” was also a muse for the record’s somber ballads.
“I Should Live In Salt” illustrates straight away that although The National has achieved what its members see as ultimate proof of who they are, there still is a sense of insecurity and anxiety looming just around the corner. The promise is made that all anxious emotion will be dissected and sewn back together in an attempt to understand how and why we are often so miserable.
Trouble Will Find Me is a thesis tackling the human condition. The National attempts to explain anxiety and emotional thought, as if reaching out, trying to find someone who understands. It’s an ingeniously relatable piece of work.
While seeking inspiration and influences, members of the band reached back to the classics. It’s amazing how prevalent those old school tricks are in some of the songs, yet how effortlessly that alt-rock sound pours out. David Bowie, Morrissey, Cat Stevens, Neil Young, and Roy Orbison are all mentioned as inspiration for The National’s languid opus. Guitar riffs and heart-pounding cymbal crash drum beats all bring a smashing hammer of nostalgic greatness down on the ears.
“Fireproof” delves into an expression of heartfelt emotion. “You’re fireproof/I wish I was that way” enhances the suffering image of the lonely man who has every reason to be happy. Its tempo is tepid and its smoggy keyboard casts a drearily refreshing melody on top of the eloquent lyrics. It often seems as though the people around us are invulnerable and above the fray of reality, while we alone dive into the abyss and wrestle with what no one wants to face. “Fireproof” stands out because it captures the essence of the record’s core ideal: Everyone deals with life in different ways, but it would be easier for us all if we understood how we each face it.
Luckily, The National doesn’t summon a rainy day in each song. “Sea of Love” may be slightly melancholy, but there’s hope in it: “If I stay here, trouble will find me/If I stay here, I’ll never leave.” It opens brightly, but quickly descends down a staircase of bittersweet chords. Its sound surrounds the listener in happiness, but it’s akin to being left on a sunny island that seems to always be overcast with the loneliness of a gray string timbre.
This brief glimpse, however, is not enough to do Trouble Will Find Me justice. It is highly recommended that this album, as with all other albums reviewed, be listened to in its entirety. Musical gems are easy to find in this dank cave of anxiety.
Similar albums would be deemed repetitive, but the subject matter The National addresses is a rich tapestry of emotion, woven with the great complexity of human personality. The true value of the album lies in the knowledge that one day, one of these songs could help you understand what’s going on in your own world.
We try to simplify our thoughts and feelings, but in reality, each emotion is heavier than we’d like to admit. Each song on Trouble Will Find Me grasps certain aspects of anxiety and insecurity that are all a part of the same experience, but need to be understood on their own before the holistic portrait can be painted.
The National – Trouble Will Find Me tracklist:
- “I Should Live In Salt”
- “Don’t Swallow The Cap”
- “Sea of Love”
- “This Is The Last Time”
- “I Need My Girl”
- “Pink Rabbits”
- “Hard To Find”