The National is not a band that has matured. It's a band that is mature. And a quality often associated with boring has actually never sounded more vibrant and alive. The slow burn of Matt Berninger's baritone, the tension he is able to convey with one-liners that sting and then stick, could easily be overlooked. But when you pay attention, the gravity of these stories – overlaid with expansive, all-encompassing guitars, ever-present percussion and well-thought out melodies – knocks you down like a bottle of bourbon. Highlights include the gradual build of “Humiliation,” a five-minute song that ends with a minute-long tangent so beautiful, so different from how it began, that it’s hard to imagine how The National laced it all together so neatly. The gentle freak-out of “Sea of Love” is a reminder that calculated refinement is not a curse, but a blessing.
I wrote this for LEO Weekly.