Monday, 27 May 2013

Introduction to the National + Review: Trouble Will Find Me

The National Trouble Will Find Me Album Review songs lyrics

Matt Berninger, deep baritone lead singer of The National, epitomizes an awkward-but-cool personality.  He’s tall and gangly, and does not exude confidence by any stretch of the imagination.  This vulnerability is clearly demonstrated in his music and makes him and it easy to relate to.  I think this comes from his late start in the music industry.  He wasn’t a young rock star, surrounded by girls from the age of 18.  Rather, he began with humble beginnings in Cincinnati, Ohio, and became a graphic designer in New York City.  Berninger has explained how this removed a lot of the pressure from the band, as it wasn’t an all-or-nothing situation.  Clearly, this needn’t have been a thought as 10 years on the National are still producing stellar albums.

I hear a lot of people talk about the National being overrated.  I understand this, as they do sound a lot like other indie bands that are around today.  However, what I think makes the National stand out is the relatability aspect.  They aren’t too much of anything.  What I mean by this is that they’re not too cool or too stylish or too hipster or too artistic – they just seem like regular guys who have the same problems in life and relationships as we do.  No matter what you’re going through or what mood you’re in, the National have an album for you.  Their first few albums are simple – calm, relaxing, easy acoustic arrangements.  Slowly they’ve added a larger orchestra and delved deeper into the directions their music can go, without loosing their sound or their roots.

What’s particularly special about their music is tone.  Berninger has stated, “Our songs are about death – but in a really fun way”.  While all of the songs are clearly melancholic, they don’t make you want to sit around waiting for death like the people in the Notebook.  They still retain a pop aspect to them, which makes them catchy and really enjoyable to listen to, despite the depressing undertones.

From a lyrical standpoint, the National falls between brilliant and confusing.  On the one hand, they can be interpreted in a myriad of different ways, making them applicable to a lot of different people and situations.  Regardless of what the artist actually meant when he wrote lyrics (this can often be disappointing, for example finding out that half of Bob Dylan’s lyrics really are just about marijuana), this ambiguity that stems re-interpretation demonstrates the lyrical strength.  On the other hand, and I’m not sure if this is a good of a bad thing, there are a lot of National lyrics that make me do a mental double take: “Can’t face heaven all heavenfaced” (what!?).

The first song on the album, “I Should Live in Salt” appears to be simple enough, discussing the deterioration of a complicated relationship.  It then brings in the idea of rubbing salt in an open wound.  This evokes the metaphor of Berninger himself being an open wound and condemning himself to a life in salt.  While I interpret the song like this, the beauty of Berninger’s lyrics is the sheer agility and versatility of them in their multitude of personal interpretations.  For example, it could also easily be interpreted as a life of guilt, as “I should live in salt” is followed by “for leaving you behind”.

Overall, Trouble Will Find Me is unsurprisingly a fantastic album and worth listening to!  Any fans of The National will not be disappointed with this installment.

My “must-listens” off Trouble Will Find Me are: “I Should Live in Salt”, “Don’t Swallow the Cap”, “Sea of Love” “This is the Last Time” and  “I Need My Girl”.

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