I am slightly ashamed to admit that this has been my first experience with the band, The National. Released on Sept. 8, “Sleep Well Beast” is the band’s seventh studio album, and I was just one song in on the album when it made a fan out of me.
It has come to us as the days start to grow shorter, as the clouds block out the entire sky and a chilly wind raises goosebumps. It has incredible musicality: the lead singer has a famous ‘80s rocker sound mixed with a folk artist and the lyrics are thoughtfully constructed. It will be my album for fall, if not one of my favorites for years to come. “Sleep Well Beast” makes me want to go back through the band’s entire discography, because a work of this nature is not a fluke.
“Nobody Else Will Be There” is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard and was the song that immediately had me hooked. There are moments of silence at the beginning, some miscellaneous noise, all creating an atmosphere. It took the listener somewhere a little darker, a little more alone.
“Walk It Back” is a little repetitive, but the bridge is a sampled speech about controlling the information people receive, supposedly said by Karl Rove in the White House to New York Times Reporter Ron Sunskind (Karl Rove disputes this claim.) Political meaning and relevance aside, the speech showed me that The National is a band that wants their music to spread thoughts and have depth, and they can do that in a number of creative ways.
I can go on for a long time about the beauty of the instrumental aspects of this album. The piano of “Carin at the Liquor Store” and the guitar of “Empire Line” specifically stuck out to me. They make the music interesting but also make for effortless listening (my roommate mentioned it was good studying music) and showcases the talent of the group, or at the very least the producer—though I don’t think that’s the case. These intricate layers combined with the sometimes monotone, but deep and raw voice of the lead singer Matt Berninger, won me over quickly.
The album reminds me a lot of The Neighbourhood’s “Wiped Out!”, but if it were its depressed cousin from the East Coast. The diversity of instruments overlaid on each track, the sometimes weird (in a very good way) openings to songs with endings that fade out just as the next song came. As the band’s seventh album, “Sleep Well Beast” shows maturity in dealing with adult issues of marriage and getting through life in deep contemplation. Its lyrics are ones that I will spend much time unpacking, which is one of my favorite things about music. In its entire form, the album is pure artistry and deliberation.
I might have been late to discover The National, but the discovery itself is all that matters.
Album: “Sleep Well Beast”
Artist: The National
Release: Sept. 8
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars