When The National released their seventh studio album, Sleep Well Beast, in September 2017, the band’s reputation and hype was through the roof. The National is a five piece-rock band who originally formed in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1999. While their sound has not changed drastically through the years, their eighth album finds them in a stalled musical moment.
The National’s soft rock sound becomes even softer on this latest effort. Beast found a few peaks, which included “The System Only Dreams In Darkness,” the band’s most aggressive track to date.
No aggressive tracks appear on I Am Easy To Find, unfortunately.
In this day and age of pop music, a rock music takeover is not necessarily the answer — in fact, thinking that a new rock revolution will take place in this day and age is almost becoming a tireless thought — but the National’s edginess and buzz is almost obsolete on their new album.
The lead single “You Had Your Soul With You” is a drum and keyboard track lacking a lick of guitars. Matt Berninger’s vocals and lyrics put you in a sleep induced coma as he sings sappily “you have no idea how hard I died when you left”.
“Oblivions” continues the melodrama, a piano-driven tune with French singer/songwriter Mina Tindle sparring vocally with Berninger.
“Hey Rosey,” another somber track, is filled with violin strings and depicts a relationship in bloom and taking chances in love. The song illustrates vulnerability and is a possible autobiographical glimpse into Berninger’s love life.
“Rylan” is the hidden gem on the album. Although it’s another soft laid-back track, the drumbeat is infectious: “Say that you’re a pervert, you’re a vulture/Don’t you wanna be popular culture?”
The song is about a young child dealing with the pains of adolescence, an introvert teen wanting to shed his or her skin and become extroverted. It has universal appeal for those who had difficult teen years.
I don’t hear many guitars on this album — mostly piano, drums, keyboards. That’s good funeral music.
Berninger’s songwriting skills have matured as his writing touches on relationships, growing pains, and vulnerability, but the music falls flat.
The National has officially lost their buzz sound that has kept the band in an upswing for most, if not, all of their career. The band should lean in a more alternative rock direction that they were headed for on earlier albums.
I Am Easy to Find feels like a lost soft rock album that was popular in the 80s and not meant for 2019. The band has the effort to push the creative envelope but they chose not to do so. If The National can head toward a more rock-driven sound, they still have the potential to create some great music. There just isn’t much of it on this record.
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