News of The National’s eighth album ‘I Am Easy To Find’, out in just two months, came as somewhat of a surprise. Released only 18 months after ‘Sleep Well Beast’, it feels like the band barely stopped moving between records. The 2017 record was a bulky listen, dissecting the near-divorce of vocalist Matt Berninger, there were shining gems under its grey exterior, but it took a significant amount of listens to see through the clouds. On ‘You Had Your Soul With You’, the first preview of ‘I Am Easy To Find’, light begins to shine more clearly.
A glitchy, mechanical sound opens the track, joined almost immediately by Bryan Devendorf’s trademark, barrelling percussion. By the time Matt’s vocals slide their way into the mix, a comfortable sense of familiarity returns. It’s the unexpected twists and turns the track takes that make it a triumph, though. Eight albums in, familiarity isn’t quite enough for the somewhat surprising festival headliners any more, and there’s a fresh, unusual rhythm that drives the track to new, undiscovered places. Vocally there are changes, as well. Matt’s verse and catchy chorus are as gorgeously delivered as ever, but the introduction of David Bowie’s long-time collaborator and former bandmate Gail Ann Dorsey comes in as a much-needed textural change. One of a host of new voices promised on the album (Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan and more are also set to feature), her voice collides harmoniously with Matt’s, and the track’s highlight comes when she delivers the hugely evocative line “You have no idea how hard I died when you left”. With enough familiarity to feel like returning home, and enough tweaks to the formula to resist sounding like National-by-numbers, ‘You Had Your Soul With You’ sees the band soaring into their next era with grace, ambition and excitement.