The National ‘I am Easy to Find’ – Review

30 May

What do you expect from one of your favourite bands on their eighth album? At best, a couple of new songs to add to the set list? Something a little different? Or something more warm and familiar, like an old dressing gown? something, at the very least, interesting, perhaps? Maybe you just don’t want them to taint your memories or diminish their own legacy?

With that in mind “I am easy to find” is a success. ‘Quiet Places’ and ‘Light Years’ are up there with the very, very best National songs. They’re sad and moving in tangible ways. The title track isn’t far behind (‘there’s a million little battles that I’m never going to win anyway. I’m still waiting for you every night with ticker tape’ is the quintessential National lyric, in its evocation of small suffering and eventual commitment). The concept is certainly interesting; the band wrote and recorded the album in tandem with director Mike Mills who was creating a visual short film to compliment the music. That’s different. It also features a longtime fan favourite in the form of ‘Rylan’, here presented in a kind of deconstructed way, featuring prominent female vocals, as many of the songs do. That’s familiar. The album has a vitality and not just in an abstract, academic sense (although that to) but in the sense that it finds a raw nerve and pokes at it. It connects. 

Of course it’s long but then every National album feels long anyway, and at least this one is upfront about it. It’s almost unbearably moody and serious but, again, every National album has been, and, again, this one wears its moody seriousness very much on its sleeve. There isn’t a cathartic outburst, a euphoric release, like ‘Mr November’ or ‘Mistaken For Strangers’ to tide us over until the next swell of sadness. If you’re in this, you’re in it for the long haul. Settle down and ready the anti-depressants. ‘I am Easy to Find’ is far from their best work (‘High Violet’ for my money, followed very closely by ‘Aligator’) but it is The National at their most National and their most experimental; you either dig it or you don’t.

7.5/10

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