With their sixth album, whilst not providing much in the way of surprises, The National show they are good at what they do and what they're good at is they're own brand of stadium indie rock, thoughtful and grandiose in equal measure. On Trouble Will Find Me, they enlisting a varied group of collaborators, amongst them; Sufjan Stevens, St. Vincent and Sharon Van Etten, who add to the groups already large sound.
The first single, Sea of Love sets out with steady driving drums but builds into something huge, with the backing vocals almost taking over in the tracks final moments, and its when they reach these epic moments that the band shine. Similarly, Demons builds into a powerful number, with waves of guitars and synthesizers building over each other and introspective and confessional lyrics, though the accompanying string section feels unnecessary and gets lost amongst everything else by the songs climax.
The National tap into Dark & sparse 80's sounds on Humiliation with its motorik drum rhythm leaving lots of space for frontman Matt Berninger's distinctive baritone as he sings, 'Tunnel vision lights my way'. Closing song, Hard To Find, goes down an alt-country route, also taken on Slipped, and sees Berninger looking back at the past, featuring the lyric 'They can all just/Kiss off into the air', re purposing a line from the Violent Femmes' song (which is not the only lyrical reference to other songs on this album) to explore memories of youth.
Fireproof features rolling drums and low growling synths hidden just beneath its surface of clean picked guitars and subdued vocals. Its a track that seems to threaten to erupt into something bigger, but never quite makes it. There are a couple of tracks that like Fireproof, that lack the drive of the more effective songs on the album. An obvious comparison would be to to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and the subdued and inviting atmosphere of Push the Sky Away, an album that has also been carefully produced and arranged, but Trouble Will Find Me becomes a little tiring, and could have done with having a few tracks being cut out. Not setting out to subvert expectations but playing to them, The National have done little to change their sound, instead still show themselves as a band who are happy playing to their strengths.
Originally posted on figure8magazine.co.uk