3. The National
Trouble Will Find Me
The National were due for something underwhelming. Isn’t that the pattern? — You peak and then you fall. But every record since their debut was a slow and steady climb, expanding their audience across genres and never really reaching mainstream breakout status until High Violet finally hit the top five in the US, Canada and the UK in its first week. How deep did they have to dig to find the gorgeous instrumentation and warm-blanket tones of Trouble Will Find Me. Continuing with the pattern established it outdid all its previous releases on the charts and with good reason. Trouble clearly hasn’t found them at all.
Matt Berninger’s cool lounge-lizard baritone spends a lot of time in the higher registers in this effort but without compromising the dynamics that made all the previous albums so rich. In the rockers, relentless drumming engages in a battle for attention with the other instruments. It’s impossible not to pay attention in “Graceless” as soaring keys and guitars guide you through the sharp peak and valley textures of sadness and hope they render. “Pink Rabbits” is an end to a bad night — a catchy piano ballad featuring such well-conceived and thoughtful lines as, “You didn’t see me/ I was falling apart/ I was a television version of a person with a broken heart/ You didn’t see me/ I was falling apart/ I was a white girl in a crowd of white girls at the park.”
This is not the first time a National record has appeared on a best of the year list and their positioning on that list is well earned by every urgent note, every sincerely delivered growl of melancholy, every stage show performed dressed like unusually sensitive stock-brokers and every line that touches or soothes a heartache. It’s a good bet it won’t be their last best record. – Darryl G. Wright