Album review: The National

The National - I Am Easy To Find (4AD)

The National. Photo:- Graham MacIndoe

The National. Photo:- Graham MacIndoe

THERE IS something familiar, and yet altogether different, about The National's eighth studio album. This is due partly to it being a film soundtrack, but mostly it is the presence of numerous female voices within this normally masculine environment.

I Am Easy To Find sees Matt Berninger sharing vocal duties with singer-songwriters Lisa Hannigan and Sharon Van Etten, as well as with former David Bowie backing vocalist Gail Ann Dorsey, among others.

Given The National have long been about men fearlessly addressing difficult and harrowing emotions, the turning of such lyrics into duets creates a powerful contrast, yet conversely also a balance in mood, theme, and atmosphere - spaces when women and men can converse on equal footing and with emotional honesty and compassion. It makes for a understated, yet triumphant album.

It is most perfectly realised on 'Not In Kansas', where Berninger's homo agonistes, beautifully delivered over a classic National arrangement, contrasts with the subtle shift to the gentle, waltzing, lullaby intoned by Dorsey and Hannigan. The same trio also work to beautiful effect on 'Hairpin turns'. Hannigan also takes the lead vocals on 'So Far So Fast', which reveals her voice to be perfectly suited to the National's very particular style.

Other times that signature style is subverted, particularly on tracks with The Brooklyn Youth Chorus. 'Underwater' is a haunting, wordless, choral piece, while the unsetting 'Her Father In The Pool' would not sound out of place in the TV series The Handmaid's Tale.


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