Grammy Award-winning band's eighth studio album explores vignettes of tenderness, fear and intimacy
The National have a knack for compressing existential dramas into a sultry line or two, but this elliptical lyricism never suffers for want of detail. There's a quiet enchantment Matt Berninger finds in swirls of dust, dreams, Sunday pearls, the broadcast news: one that dislocates almost as often as it connects. I Am Easy To Find, the band's new album, comprises a creative dialogue with a film of the same name, directed by LA-based Mike Mills, starring Alicia Vikander. Lushly furnished with strings and digitally manipulated guitars, mercurial rhythms and a chorus of guest-starring vocalists (including Sharon Van Etten, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Lisa Hannigan, Mina Tindle and David Bowie collaborator Gail Ann Dorsey), the album explores vignettes of tenderness, fear and intimacy. Weaving voices together, its story carries personal and political entanglements which feel both timeless and timely.
The collaboration between album and film seems completely intuitive: Berninger's words hold scenes that slip like sand through an hourglass, impressions which reflect the distraction culture of the twenty-first century and yet hold something true of a thought. It's as though he were trying to come home in these songs, finding instead the archival detritus of a faded America: empty suburban pools, what of the 'real' Neil Armstrong taught, R.E.M lyrics, 'rotten' California and pop cultural disorder. There's a mellowness throughout which asks for space and contemplation; livelier moments like 'Where Is Her Head' and opener 'You Had Your Soul With You' invite productive emotional frictions.
At 68 minutes long, I Am Easy To Find feels nourishing; it bears the necessity of noticing and overcoming our present spiritual anemia. It spans the complexity of what it means to believe, consume and exist right now; to drift softly in and out of orbit with those we love, to sing of that.
Out Fri 17 May on 4AD.