After 19 years, it’s easy to write a recipe for an album by The National.
Mix a glass of bourbon, a simple drum pattern, an obscure literary reference and a sense of existential dread. Voila. None of these characteristics drone on in I Am Easy To Find, however, which manages to breathe new life into The National’s raison d’être.
The record draws on some of the best elements of The National’s previous albums. Boxer’s swelling strings, Trouble Will Find Me’s production, the electronic haunting in Sleep Well Beast and High Violet’s panicked grit all make an appearance, but they give way to a new venture – female vocals.
The first single released from the album, ‘You Had Your Soul With You’, tested the waters on this brave new experiment. Rushing drums and glitching guitar fill the space before the clouds part and Gail Ann Dorsey’s voice rains down from the heavens. It’s a shock to the system that leaves you curious for what’s to come.
The first handful of tracks usher us gently into this shift, but we’re quick to learn nothing’s changed at its core. ‘Quiet Light’ re-welcomes us to the theme of yearning we’re so used to. By the time it reaches ‘Oblivions’, a track that encapsulates the fear of committing to another person, the extra vocals are well respected.
The title track certainly isn’t the most dynamic of the record, but it depicts the message threaded among many of the songs: Come what may, I’ll be here for you. A walking pace illustrates the contemplative mood perfectly, as if the two singers were sole explorers of an empty metropolis.
‘Light Years’ wishes the listener well with a soft, easy exit. It laments the distance, literal or otherwise, between lovers and wraps up the album without a grim aftertaste. The hallmarks of a The National song are all there, but its delivery is refreshing and the light-dark contrast of vocals successfully fulfills Matt Berninger’s desire for multiple identities weaved throughout the album. Where Sleep Well Beast was drowning in despair, I Am Easy To Find keeps itself afloat. What was brooding is now tender. What was black is now grey.