Posts Tagged ‘The National’

The-National-Trouble-Will-Find-Me-608x608With each full-length from Brooklyn’s The National, the band has progressed and grown in sound and scope. They continue the trend with their sixth LP, Trouble Will Find Me. While—for me personally at least—the novelty of The National’s sound may have worn off a bit considering I listened to Alligator, Boxer, and High Violet about a trillion times each, their new material is certainly as solid as anything they’ve released, and will be unanimously praised by fans of their prior work.

Trouble sees vocalist Matt Berninger stretching his limits like never before. On opener “I Should Live In Salt,” he sings in a higher register than normal, almost sounding like a normal indie band vocalist instead of the baritone bass crooner we know him as.  His whimsical ruminations rise to the forefront on songs like “Heavenfaced” and “Fireproof” in a way they usually don’t—most of the time, Berninger’s lyrics lurk behind the groove, rather than standing out front. Personal stories, regrets, worries, tales of love and loss—Berninger doesn’t break too much new ground here lyrically, but as per usual submits his lines expertly and humorously.

I’m also intrigued by the odd time signatures that occasionally crop up within Trouble Will Find Me. It’s most notable in lead single “Demons,” where an otherwise-standard National song is made unique thanks to a 7/8 groove, lead by drummer Bryan Devendorf. Devendorf’s parts seem a little less frenetic and busy than usual, opting instead to support the tunes tastefully rather than stealing the spotlight.

Some of the songs on Trouble are classic National (“Graceless,” “Don’t Swallow The Cap,” “Humiliation”) while some are more whimsy and fleeting than usual (“Heavenfaced,” “I Need My Girl”). “Pink Rabbits” utilizes a nice slow swing/shuffle type of groove that suits the band well, especially Berninger’s somber illustrations of his experiences. Closer “Hard to Find” ends the album with a subdued piano ballad, only introducing a light percussion part in the final minute—a cerebral closing to an album that sees the band covering some new ground.

I can’t say Trouble Will Find Me is blowing me away like 2007’s Boxer or even the band’s earlier records did, but as I said, it might just be that the charm wore off a little. That’s not The National’s fault, it’s mine. In addition, most National albums take a few weeks to really settle in and grow on the listener, so I’ll probably be more stoked on Trouble by the summer.

It may seem obvious, but I’ll say it anyway: those who already enjoy The National will like this record, and the band’s detractors, who might foolishly label this music “boring,” probably won’t find a whole lot to gravitate toward this time around. Even so, Trouble Will Find Me continues this band’s incredible growth and expansion, and is a solid addition to their existing powerhouse of a catalog.

~ J.M.

tmp354010523773173760It’s been a solid six years since the last solo album from everyone’s favorite Canadian frontman, Raine Maida. Six years sounds like a long time, but a gap that long actually does make some sense, considering Maida’s main band, Our Lady Peace, released two albums—2009’s Burn Burn and 2012’s Curve—and completed multiple tours between Maida’s first solo album, 2007’s The Hunter’s Lullaby, and the brand-new We All Get Lighter, which is slated for release next Tuesday.

After a thorough listen, We All Get Lighter seems to have one major difference from The Hunter’s Lullaby: the spoken-word element is greatly minimized. Back in ’07, Maida was really into putting spoken-word passages over musical instrumentation—the technique can be heard on almost every song on Lullaby. Personally, I quite enjoyed those moments. I think Maida found a nice niche for himself there, incorporating something not often found in modern singer/songwriter, folk, indie, or rock. The spoken-word parts made Lullaby unique and differentiated it from the slew of frontman-turned-solo-artists that are popular today.

I’m guessing Raine didn’t want to overuse the technique, because it only appears once on We All Get Lighter, briefly in the beginning stanzas of the second track. Personally, I would like more of it—Raine pulls it off well enough that he may as well capitalize on it further. Then again, if it was incorporated more often here, I might be complaining that it’s tiresome and outdated. I’m never satisfied. Moving on…

Leadoff track “How To Kill A Man” showcases Maida’s signature vocal range, driving into falsetto range then falling back down just as quickly. A punchy eighth-note bass drum track and well-placed female backing vocal round out the song nicely.

“Rising Tide” comes next, and as mentioned features the brief spoken-word/half-sing-half-talk sections in the verses. Honestly, the song could have been a B-side from The Hunter’s Lullaby. The “calm before the storm” line in the verses is strangely reminiscent of the same line in OLP’s “Angels/Losing/Sleep.” Hmm…

Lead single “Montreal” is a rollicking tune complete with trumpet swells and piano sections. “Not Done Yet” slows things down a bit. The vocal track of the song is nothing especially different, but the deliberate and paced nature of the instrumentation is worth hearing. Track 5, “This is Gonna Hurt,” is the strongest and most solid point of this record, in my opinion. After a minute and a half, the song breaks into a beautifully subdued section with Maida’s voice overtop, which blends into the orchestral and synth-backed outro.

release-helium-1

Is it just me, or does this guy look like a chunkier version of the singer of Rise Against?

Fast-paced “SOS” is another winning track, and even features a name-drop of that “through the desert on a horse with no name” song by America. Second-to-last is “A Drink of You,” which finds Maida’s voice occasionally dipping down low, almost sounding like The National; a nice contrast to the usual mid-to-high ranges Maida is known for.

Then comes the only real mistake of this record—the last song, “Numbers.” It has one gigantic, glaring issue: the vocal track is entirely in Alvin and the Chipmunks-form. If that sounds like it would be ridiculous, take my word for it. It is. For the entire five minutes of “Numbers,” Maida’s voice (not that I can even tell for sure if it’s his) is mixed as if it’s been sped up times a billion in a tape recorder. Raine, I really like you and all, but I’m pretty sure your fans aren’t interested in hearing you sing after you just inhaled eight helium balloons.

Unless I’m being totally fooled, and this is some kind of “we’re-not-releasing-the-real-version-of-the-song-until-the-album-is-officially-released” stunt, “Numbers” is a poor way to round out an otherwise praise-worthy album. If you just shave that song off of the end, though, We All Get Lighter is a solid album, another solid notch in Raine Maida’s belt, and an entertaining listen. And maybe you’re actually really into Alvin and the Chipmunks, and will like the entire thing!

~J.M.