At this point in time, it seems inconceivable that the National will ever make a bad album as they reached a point where they are essentially their own genre. A such, there are no surprises on Trouble will find me which is a natural successor to High Violet. Where the previous record was big choruses and big emotion, the new album feels muted in comparison - it feels like the sigh of resignation after the break up. On first listen the album runs as a single mood piece, unfamiliarity making single tracks indistinguishable but a few listens in, the intricacy and intimacy of the record reveals itself. This is probably the National's greatest strength - subtlety and intimacy and the ability to wring real emotion from their songs.
It's weird, their sound is almost predictable - Trouble will find me sounds exactly like you would expect it to sound but repeated listens unveil complexity and vision far beyond expectation. At first flush, their lyrics are littered with bad jokes, references to Guns n' Roses and Nirvana and low key melancholy but they reveal a thousand bruised hearts and relatable stories of grief and loss.
I have to confess, their songs get to me the way few bands do. As I do with most new albums, I put them on my iPod and go on a long walk and listen to them about six times in a row. By the fourth listen, I had suddenly (and embarrassingly) become slightly emotionally unstable as the album seemed to explore little wounds of my psyche (there is one song here that makes want to blubber like a baby. At this point, I just skip that song - bloody hell). The incisive nature of the writing is so brutal that it can tap into long forgotten hurts. I get that feeling you had when you were a kid - 'it's like they're writing this song about my life' - that comes rushing back even though it's patently absurd.
Matt Berninger's phrasing is immaculate, his sullen baritone sails above the band's sympathetic playing which has pulled back from High Violet's lopsided bombast to gentler creature but no less devastating. If this all sounds like one great bummer, it's not, it's just excellent songwriting.
There isn't a bad song here and I find my favourite song change each time I listen to it. I do feel the album gets stronger towards the end as the final three tracks: Humiliation, Pink Rabbits and Hard to Find are all exquisite and triumphantly end a remarkable record. I have to say my expectations for this record were pretty high but they have been exceeded at every turn. It's too soon to tell if it will dethrone High Violet as my favourite National album but it feels like it will... it feels like it's only a matter of time.