Trouble Will Find Me, the sixth studio album from American indie rockers The National, is beautifully complex and one of the New York band’s most meticulously constructed albums to date. Since Boxer (2007), The National’s sound has felt concrete but static; here they manage to evolve, creating a masterpiece that embodies emotive precision and harmony. It’s a far cry from the dynamism that Alligator (2005) hurtled to fans, and steps even further away from the supreme predictability of their last album, High Violet (2010), and although Trouble Will Find Me sounds familiar, it is undeniably liberating, an album that cements the creative freedom that the band finally feel comfortable to explore.
Opening track, I Should Live In Salt, gracefully builds with dramatic pause and Matt Berninger’s rasping vocals, while Don’t Swallow The Cap is delicately constructed, strings gliding gracefully in the background and hidden synths darting behind them. The intelligible lyrics associate confusion with feelings: “I have only two emotions, careful fear and dead devotion / I can’t get the balance right”.
Matt’s vocals are equally intimate, intense and borderline depressing on darker track, Demons. Brooding refrain “I stay down with my demons” offers insight into Berninger’s vulnerability during the songwriting process, and absorbing unmistakable nostalgia throughout the album as a whole.
Sea of Love, which contains the album’s title phrase, makes you want to wrap yourself up in a warm blanket and embrace the dark and spooky vocals that, with a bit of distortion to amp things up, make Berninger so easy to listen to. The band drop the tempo for melancholy ballad I Need My Girl, and final track Hard To Find lends a soothing end to a reassuring listening experience.
The cameo-packed album features collaborations with Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire, a major influence on the band who, according to drummer Bryan Devendorf, “did a lot of great stuff”. Old ally Sufjan Stevens, who also featured on Boxer, offers some of his expertise, providing drum machines and synthy textures. The impressive list of appearances extends with Doveman and American folk band Dark Dark Dark’s singer Nona Marie Invie providing some guest vocals.
Trouble Will Find Me offers hypnotic dimension and layering of exquisite components that all work so dramatically well together. It showcases swirls of guitars, waves of subtle strings and tantalising synths. It’s a new direction and, led by Berninger’s vocal arrangements, is robustly refined. The album overall has been produced with the utmost respect and care: it’s intricately crafted and stands out as a whole, with no fragment surpassing another. It all works definitively together and, as a group collaboration, Trouble Will Find Me is finely executed. The band’s exploration of sound and technique embraces the next step in the The National’s quest that now expands over a decade.