natLike so many other indie rock fans, I became completely enamored with The National after hearing their most recent album, Trouble Will Find Me. After listening to that about a thousand times, I started to dig in reverse chronological order through their catalog. Each record exposed a little more vulnerability as I followed the songs backward through their history – less vulnerable in terms of themes and lyrical expression, but more in the way they sounded.

The younger National is louder, angrier, clumsier. I don’t mean to say that they weren’t as good, they just existed in a different, more youthful realm of creative expression. The reason Trouble Will Find Me and High Violet had the commercial success that they did was because The National started to grow up – they refined their sound and began playing songs that sounded like they had a long and complicated history that led to that dramatic musical moment. They began to sound like early fatherhood, or like age-old challenges in marriage (I thought for the longest time that all of TWFM was about devorce). They learned how to truly grasp the graying moroseness that’s always embodied the heart of their sound, and then sparked it up with bright flashes of color shown in complex rhythmic patterns, bounding, rolling choruses, and an element of heartening emotional sophistication that’s left me fighting off tears on a crowded bus more times than I’d care to admit.

the_national-1The one thing that sticks out about The National in my eyes, is that they have done nothing but get better over their entire career. Despite decade-old greats like “Mr. November,” “All The Wine,” and “Fake Empire,” I’m constantly returning to their later works, specifically songs from Trouble Will Find Me. Based on the singles I’ve heard from their highly anticipated, four year long hiatus of a record, Sleep Well Beast, I can’t see any reason to expect otherwise now. This review also peaked my hysteria a little bit too.

UPDATE (9/6/17): You can still listen to the live performance of Sleep Well Beast at the link below.

Original Post: There’s been all kinds of major promotion for the record, but the most enticing yet is a live performance of the entire record on NPR tonight, 8PM EST – three days before it’s actually released. Go check it out, and get ready for an onslaught of gushing National elation to come from yours truly. Check out one of my favorites from Trouble Will Find Me below.

One thought on “The National – Sleep Well Beast – Live Debut

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