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Trouble Will Find Me

The National

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Album Review

Upon first spin, Trouble Will Find Me, the warm, wistful, and weary sixth long-player from the National, sounds a lot like 2010's warm, wistful, and weary High Violet, but where the former was built on a foundation of suburban despondency and casual, middle class self-destruction (and skillfully juggled melodrama and dark comedy), the latter feels mired in regret, seeking refuge in the arms of old friends and lost lovers, sounding for all the world like a single cube of ice lazily swirling about a recently drained tumbler of single malt scotch, a notion best intoned on early album standout "Demons," which casually announces "I am secretly in love with everyone I grew up with." Like nausea, nostalgia can arrive in waves, and Trouble Will Find Me's best moments — the propulsive "Don't Swallow the Cap" and the one-two sucker punch of pre-set closers "Humiliation" and "Pink Rabbits" — find Matt Berninger and his laconic baritone nervously pacing the deck of a sinking ship while simultaneously trying to find his sea legs as his bandmates constantly pull the rug out from under him with familiar rhythms and melodies that hide countless trap doors. However, it's that very familiarity that fuels the ire of many of the band's detractors, especially those who consider them to be a slightly creepier, American Coldplay, and while there is definitely an intangible, Mad Men-esque sense of unease that permeates Trouble Will Find Me, one could hardly use the words dangerous or forward-thinking when dissecting its myriad parts. That said, this is the band that performed a chilling rendition of the George R.R. Martin-penned "Rains of Castamere" over the closing credits of the season two finale of Game of Thrones. For better or for worse, they perfected their sound the last time around, so it’s hard to fault them for sticking so close to the fire, especially on such a snowy night.

Customer Reviews

reaching across decades...

I'm a 65 yr. old guy that discovered The National about 4 yrs. ago. Their music reaches my gut. It's wonderful that this kind of music is out there. Thanks for making me feel the depth.

The National’s 6th album: Demons don’t Swallow the Cap

The National have released two clues for their forthcoming 6th album. Demons and Don’t Swallow the Cap suggest the follow-up to 2010’s High Violet will be less prone to the grandiose crescendos of its predecessor (think England, Terrible Love, Afraid of Everyone), more similar in tone to the restrained Boxer. Still, unlike Boxer, where the band remained uncertain of its rising potential, on Demons and Don’t Swallow the Cap, the musicians are aware of—if they are struggling to accept—their present success and inevitable mortality.

On Demons, over an unconventional, anxious, 7/8 count, Berninger admits in his confident baritone, “I’m going through an awkward phase….there’s no running from it.” Finally coming to terms with the band’s acclaimed recognition, Berninger prefers not—or doesn’t know how—to embrace it and instead remains “down with my demons.” Paradoxically, after having experienced the bright lights of a world tour, the front man “does not light up” rooms as he once did three albums ago when high beams lit up his back.

If Demons is an uncomfortable admission of having made it, Don’t Swallow the Cap hints at the falling action. Berninger implies there’s nothing left to reveal: “Everything I love is on the table; everything I love is out to sea.” In one of his more explicit moments, the singer wonders, “Is it time to leave?” His bandmates mirror his fear of closure. Bryan Devendorf drives an eerie British punk rhythm backed by nostalgic strings. Instead of delivering an ambitious outro as they may have on High Violet, the instrumentalists slowly peel layers from the song, allowing it to drift away. Of course, the interpretation may not be this simple. The title itself suggests an internal battle between impending mortality and a desire to keep on. Don’t swallow the cap; reach for another.

On both tracks, previous motifs are updated. “Tiny bubbles hang above” him and his “drowning friends”, implying, optimistically, it may be time to stop living underwater. The ocean, unlike its previous turbulence, is now serene. Faith is also revisited with a slightly more certain attitude. After having wished to believe, Berninger now has faith (but don’t believe it), painting an image of an approaching bright white beautiful heaven, complete with girls at its door.

Given harbingers of mortality and closure, the urgency to appreciate the forthcoming album heightens. Like it will all of us, trouble will inevitably find them.


I expect more from these guys

The CD is good, but given their track record, fairly or not, i expect brilliant. This is a slow burner. It hits a mellow groove (rut?) and never reaches for the emotional heights of their previous work. When I saw these guys on tour for High Violet, it was an incredibly moving, cathartic experience. I don't hear any of those tracks here.


Formed: 1999 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Although formed during the post-punk revival of the late '90s, the National took inspiration from a wider set of influences, including country-rock, Americana, indie rock, and Brit-pop. The lineup began taking shape in Ohio and officially cemented itself in New York, with baritone vocalist Matt Berninger joining forces with two sets of brothers — Scott (bass) and Bryan Devendorf (drums), and Aaron (guitar) and Bryce Dessner (guitar). After establishing themselves as a live act, the bandmates...
Full Bio

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