The National - Trouble Will Find Me [2LP]
Trouble Will Find Me, the most self-assured collection of songs produced by the National in its 14-year career, is a tribute to fully evolved artistic vision-and, somewhat less mystically, to sleep deprivation.
Last January, after a 22-month tour to promote the band's previous record, High Violet, guitarist Aaron Dessner returned home to Brooklyn, where the fitfulness of his newborn daughter threw Aaron into a more or less sustained fugue state-"sleepless and up all the time," as he puts it. Punch-drunk, he shuffled into the band's studio (situated in Aaron's backyard), where he amused himself writing musical fragments that he then sent over to vocalist Matt Berninger. Recalls Matt of Aaron, "He'd be so tired while he was playing his guitar and working on ideas that he wouldn't intellectualize anything. In the past, he and Aaron's twin brother, Bryce would be reluctant to send me things that weren't in their opinion musically interesting-which I respected, but often those would be hard for me to connect to emotionally. This time around, they sent me sketch after sketch that immediately got me on a visceral level."
From beginning to end, Trouble Will Find Me possesses the effortless and unself-conscious groove of a downstream swimmer. It's at times lush and at others austere, suffused with insomniacal preoccupations that skirt despair without succumbing to it. There are alluring melodies, and the murderously deft undercurrent supplied by the Devendorfs.
There are songs that seem (for Matt anyway) overtly sentimental-among them, the Simon & Garfunkel-esque "Fireproof," "I Need My Girl" (with Matt's unforgettable if throwaway reference to a party "full of punks and cannonballers") and "I Should Live In Salt" (which Aaron composed as a send-up to the Kinks and which Matt wrote about his brother). While a recognition of mortality looms in these numbers, they're buoyed by a kind of emotional resoluteness — "We'll all arrive in heaven alive" — that will surprise devotees of Matt's customary wry fatalism.
Says Aaron, "Our ideas would immediately click with each other. It's free-wheeling again. The songs on one level are our most complex, and on another they're our most simple and human. It just feels like we've embraced the chemistry we have."