Album Review: The National – I Am Easy To Find

Alexia Oerter reviews The National's latest album

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The first song of The National’s next album I Am Easy to Find, released on 17th May, has just been released; we are all already filled with excitement in anticipation of the other fifteen tracks to come. 

 The opening song to the album ‘You Had Your Soul with You’ erupts with a digitally manipulated guitar line, quickly followed by drumbeats that assist the strongly recognisable sound of the band. The track, written by band member Aaron Dessner and producer Thomas Bartlett, lyrically possess the nostalgic melancholy that is wholly characteristic of The National’s style. Nonetheless, we are able to notice a progression which I could, perhaps, call slightly more uplifting and modern, while keeping true to their original authenticity as a band.

The opening song erupts with a digitally manipulated guitar line, quickly followed by drumbeats that assist the strongly recognisable sound of the band

 I Am Easy to Find is the The National’s eighth studio album, preceeding their Grammy-award winning album Sleep Well Beast released in 2017. The band, originally from Ohio but based in Brooklyn, recorded most of I Am Easy to Find at Long Pond in the Hudson Valley of New York. Yet, they held additional sessions in other parts of the United Sates as well as internationally, including Paris, Berlin, and Dublin. All songs feature vocal contributions from numerous artists (all women) such as Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan, Mina Tindle, Gail Ann Dorsey, and many more. It was quite surprising to hear female voices alongside Matt Berninger’s voice which I am so accustomed to.

The rest of the new album will become available at the same time as an eponymous short film directed by Academy Award nominated director Mike Millsand, starring the reputable actress Alicia Vikander. The short film, although inspired by the album and including music by The National, was created as an independent art-form and is not to be considered as merely the video of the album – just as the album should not be seen as the soundtrack of the film. Mills compared the two projects in a press release to two “playfully hostile siblings that love to steal from each other”, exemplifying that they have inspired each other and they should be thought of as equal companions. Both the film and album focus on what it feels like to be a modern day human being, opening up to a new emotional dialogue feeding off of each other.

 ‘Dust Swirls In Strange Light’ is the most experimental with its use of choir vocals, as the voices are not meant to put the listener at ease

The second song of the album ‘Quiet Light’ is, as I would say, one which resembles the most their previous albums, especially the start as it begins with drumbeats quickly put in the background to make space for delicate piano notes and Matt Berninger’s voice. Other songs such as ‘Light Years’, ‘Not In Kansas’, and ‘I am easy to find’ emphasise more of this by prioritising the voices over the underlying melody. The twelfth track ‘Dust Swirls In Strange Light’ is probably the most experimental of the album and does not correspond to what I would have expected of a The National song; the use of choir vocals was daring, as the voices are not meant to put the listener at ease.

As a whole, electronic sounds are more present in these sixteen tracks than ever before in any other of the band’s albums, such as the start of ‘Hairpin Turns’ or ‘So Far So Fast’ – the latter of which is also a song that gives great importance to the the contribution of the other artist. Another one of my favourites on this album, apart from ‘Quiet Light’, would be ‘Where Is Her Head’ as it has this distinctive and empowering drumbeat accompanied by violin just like other songs on previous albums such as ‘Day I Die’ or ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’. Also, the female vocals complement the song itself alongside with the singer’s voice very well on this track. 

In the end I Am Easy To Find is not my favourite album by The National, as some of the songs distance themselves too much of the identity of the band in my opinion. Yet, some of the songs are definitely joining my “The National: essentials” playlist.

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