of all the bands that pride themselves in writing quality sad bastard music, the national have to be on the short list of bands that do so in a very convincing manner. since 2005’s alligator, matt berninger’s suave baritone coupled with the music of the dessner and devendorf brothers have been dominating the indie rock scene, earning the national spots on presidential campaign tours and a slot on damn near every one of my applicable mixtapes.
high violet turned the heads of nearly anybody who’s anybody in the music industry back in 2010; the pounding post-punk tendencies of earlier albums had mostly been quelled, giving way to signature mid-tempo songs like “terrible love” while still churning out incredibly memorable offerings in “bloodbuzz ohio” and “conversation 16.” this impressive feat was coupled with an additional handful of songs on a bonus disc that were recorded during the high violet sessions but didn’t quite fit thematically, rounding out the national’s best batch of songs to date.
to follow something so monumental with so much confidence would be a daunting task, so it’s understandable that the national took three years to do so. songs on trouble will find me began cropping up in late 2011, and a year later, the band had premiered a quarter of the album’s content in live settings. the release of lead single “demons” early this year cemented my anticipation of continuity from high violet; bryce devendorf’s signature drumming is plastered all over this track and from the moment berninger sings “i’m still in love with / everyone i grew up with,” it’s evident that his morose lyrical palate is here to stay. what threw me were tracks like “don’t swallow the cap” and “graceless,” the former of which my dad immediately compared to the cure’s earlier catalogue. this reappearance of the national’s post-punk roots was unexpected, but proves itself to be gloriously refined, courtesy of the band’s maturation.
“sea of love” seems to be the national’s follow-up attempt at recreating “bloodbuzz ohio,” a valiant effort that falls slightly short, simply due to the fact that a song of that caliber can’t be effectively replicated. plenty of tear-jerkers still exist throughout trouble will find me; “heavenfaced” and “pink rabbits” are two of my early favorites from an album that should probably be saved for an incredibly dreary day, so i can adequately soak up its aesthetic. in a world of sad, the national hold on to their crowns for another year.