If you only buy one album in 2013, it should be The National’s Trouble Will Find Me.
I realise this is quite a bold statement, particularly given that it’s only the beginning of June, but I’m confident that if we talk again on the 31st of December, I’ll feel the same way (unless perhaps the Springbok Nude Girls miraculously release an album this year, and then we’ll have to reconvene the panel of one)…it’s that good an album.
For those of you who may not know who The National are, and I realise there are many of you out there, they started out in 1999 and create the kind of indie music that just speaks to your soul. They’ve also managed to do what most bands aspire to – get progressively better with each album they release, starting with their self-titled album in 2001, and until recently, ending with High Violet in 2009, which was acclaimed by critics and fans alike as their finest work yet (although to be honest I have a major soft spot for the album released just before that in 2007, Boxer).
Trouble Will Find Me is probably their most consistent work to date, with each track as fabulous as the next. Matt Berninger has an incredible voice – rich, deep, piercing – and it is showcased beautifully on their latest album. If it is possible to be both simple and complex at the same time, this album manages it. Every track is a poignant story, with the music of brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner, and Bryan and Scott Devendorf providing the delicate counterpart to Berninger’s lyrics. And these lyrics are clever and witty, and border on stream of consciousness at times. Perfection. The songs are dark – this is no surprise, as The National has always told tales of cynicism and disenchantment, of love lost and relationships soured – but they are also hauntingly lovely. I feel like I want to stroke Matt’s hair and tell him it will all be okay, even as I know it probably won’t. It’s the kind of album you have to listen to over and over again, not because it needs time to grow on you, but because it is so compelling. I can’t remember when last I loved an album this much, and I am struggling to decide which song is my favourite. Possibly Sea of Love, one of the more up-tempo tracks on the album, possibly Slipped, a classic The National ballad that makes you ache with regret…I don’t know, I may never be able to decide. On a more personal level, in a year that has seen me and some of the people I love most crushed by loss of such magnitude that everything else seems to pale into insignificance, it feels almost as if the sweet melancholy of this album was made just for us. You’d be crazy not to buy it.