This feels like the project The National have been destined to make their whole career. The accompanying film sees Mike Mills – producer of the album – tear apart and restructure each track to a visual backdrop of a growing girl, following her through every single mundane moment, from childhood to adolescence. Remnants of Sleep Well Beast’s dazzling electronic exploits remain, the percussion and jaunty guitar lines linking that and this record together.
There’s a newfound freshness however as The National brighten up. The album’s artwork promises a lighter tone and that’s what you get. As they dig deeper, going further with this alternative experiment, The National find a sense of optimism, exploration and youthfulness, each track sounding like they’re wondering how far they can actually go into the depths of music, how far they can take each instrument. Furthermore, the multitude of female vocalists see Berninger’s lyrics in a new light as the Brooklynites show a determination to continue evolving.
Berninger’s brooding is revived every so often, turning the focus on himself in parts but showing a vulnerability and acceptance of his failures, almost telling himself that it’s ok to be imperfect, something he has never really done before. Yet it’s the moments where he turns the binoculars outwards, away from himself, when his song writing gets even better. ‘Rylan’ is a playful tale of childhood, ‘The Pull of You’ sees Matt do his best Nick Cave impression whilst ‘Not In Kansas’ – a near 7-minute epic – is a socio-political critique displaying apathy for America’s current socio-political state, questioning the rise of the Alt-right.
These boys don’t know when to stop, but it’s certainly a blessing, not a curse.
Haiku Review Bright, optimistic, Cheerful, no really, cheerful! New territory found