The album officially drops next week, but there's no reason not to tune in and sate desire. Trouble Will Find Me, upon first blush, delivers both the imaginative melancholy strewn throughout the band's career and a definite advancement in terms of songwriting agility and creative confidence.
Album opener "I Should Live in Salt" feels like hitting the ignition of some forgotten memory. The enveloping nostalgia of the band's forlorn perspectives is some very pretty stuff. Singer Matt Berninger aches his way through this titanic ballad, the musicianship of which drips with electricity and honey. It's a touching and quite earnest return to form, following the three years between this release and 2010's High Violet.
Later on, "Sea of Love" ties in a great many of The National's most endearing qualities, including a steady build on the back of drummer Bryan Devendorf. (Revisit 2007's "Mistaken for Stranger" for something similar.) The chord progressions perfectly balance Berninger's vocal woe, especially via Scott Devendorf's crunchy bass work. Next up: Dig Bryan's jaunty rhythms on "Heavenfaced." He's throwing down some tight, tight, insanely precise shit all over this album.
At this point in time, to be clear, The National is fairly well set in stone. The band's story is one of dedication, consistency and utterly no deterrence from vision. And that's always been an asset. With a sixth triumph now tucked under the belt, the band members are absolutely working on their own private plane of artistry. The freedom is there for any and all shots to be called. The freedom is there to dig as deep as they'd like to on any and all songs.
Flourishes in melody on songs like "This is the Last Time" and "Graceless" expound on the emotion in Berninger's lyrics, but such string-laden pirouettes didn't need to be there. But, as the songwriting process unfolded, decisions were made. And they were made very well, as the fruits of Trouble Will Find Me bear out.
Stream The National's Trouble Will Find Me online. (Note: The linked source is missing track 3, "Don't Swallow The Cap.") The album will be released officially May 21.