One of the most consistent artists of the last decade, the sixth album in their ever-impressive catalogue fails to break the trend. Their fan base is steadily expanding due to their dependable nature, and The National’s blend of lyric and emotion driven indie rock is among the most refined and structurally sound in music today. The key to their sustained brilliance lies is Berninger’s signature baritone, and the simplicity (but undermined complexity) of their music.
Opener “I Should Live in Salt” is a sincere tune written for Berninger’s brother, and the guilt he feels for the numerous times he feels he has abandoned him (I should leave it alone but you’re not right). The Arcade Fire-esque standout “Don’t Swallow the Cap” has a haunting melody and chorus quoting classics, “And if you want to see me cry, play Let It Be and Nevermind”, and due to its unique pacing stands as easily one of the most memorable tracks on the record. Highlight “Sea of Love” is the most upbeat track on Trouble, and utilises constant drums and enveloping layers to build to the glorious hook climax, “Hey Jo, sorry I hurt you, but they say love is a virtue don’t they?”
The sombre tale of addicted love in “This is the Last Time” and good lyricism on “Graceless” make the two noteworthy, the former saying, “God loves everybody, don’t remind me”, and “There’s a science to walking through windows” are notable. The albums best track is the simple and honest “I Need My Girl”, which pairs a brilliant little guitar riff (vaguely reminiscent of Sufjan Steven’s “Impossible Soul”) with a powerfully subtle vocal. One of the simplest songs on the record, they have always been an advocate for ‘less is more’. Highlight “Pink Rabbits” narrates about a chance encounter with an ex with whom you’ve just experienced a rough break-up, and details the surprise and confusion of the moment. “I’m so surprised you want to dance with me now, I was just getting used to living life without you around.”
There is an overwhelming sense of nostalgia when listening to an album by The National, and serene closer “Hard to Find” typifies this. Memories of a once sweet relationship that may not have left lasting remains, but many unforgettable moments. It is hard to envisage the American band creating an album that is revolutionary, but it is even harder to envisage them releasing a weak record. Unassuming grower to those who don’t pay initial attention, and gripping from the start to those who do, long term success is something every listener can assume for. Lasting remains seems the likely outcome for the band, but they have never failed to produce unforgettable moments too.
Verdict – 8.4
Top Songs – “Don’t Swallow the Cap”, “Sea of Love”, “I Need My Girl”