Happy National Day! (New album release plus concert flashbacks: Dec 2011 at Beacon Theatre)
Last Tuesday, to celebrate the release of Modern Vampires of the City, I wished everyone a “Happy Vampire Weekend Day” and posted some links and concert photos for your viewing pleasure. “Happy National Day” (“Happy The National Day”??) doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but I am happy all the same with today’s release of the National’s sixth full-length album, Trouble Will Find Me (their first since 2010’s High Violet). Luckily for me, I pre-ordered the album directly from 4AD and received it in the mail three days early! So this celebration of the National is colored by the fact that I’ve been listening to the new album non-stop since Sunday morning. If only you could see the grin beaming through my monitor, you’d understand how wonderful Trouble Will Find Me is.
By now you may have already heard tracks 2 and 3, “Demons” and “Don’t Swallow The Cap,” both of were released in early April to relatively heavy radio-play. (On April 13, SiriusXMU had the songs at #4 and #1 on its Download 15, respectively.) Both songs are excellent, typical National fare. Just last week, they released a third song, “Sea of Love,” the track from which Trouble Will Find Me takes its title. Hearing this track was love at first listen. It is also typical National fare, but it has that extra kick that certain songs of theirs do (I’m thinking “Secret Meeting” from Alligator, “Squalor Victoria” from Boxer, “Bloodbuzz Ohio” of course from High Violet.). After a few passes through the album, “Sea of Love” is (for now) my favorite track; go have a listen and come back and sing it with me: “If I stay here trouble will find me // If I stay here I’ll never leave.”
I was also pleased to see that “I Need My Girl” made the cut (track 10), another song I fell instantly in love with when I first heard it, in this case nearly 18 months ago. The band first played it on the High Violet tour in 2011, where they played six consecutive nights at the Beacon Theatre in NYC, changing up the set list each night but always including never-before-played “I Need My Girl” and “Rylan.” I was at two of the shows, Tuesday night December 13 and Saturday night December 17, and was mesmerized both nights. A few pictures are below. My only disappointment thus far with Trouble Will Find Me is that “Rylan” – which I also really enjoyed those nights at the Beacon – didn’t make the cut. That small nitpick only goes to illustrate how great the album is.
Over on stereogum, there is an album review (what they call a “premature evaluation”) that, for the most part, captures how I feel about the new album after a couple of days with it. Writer Tom Breihan points out that though the music has evolved in small ways, “it’s the same old National.” He adds:
But that looks like a complaint, and it’s not. This band is just incredibly good at cranking out massively satisfying moody churns, rainy-afternoon red-wine anthems, and I’m not remotely mad at the way they’ve stuck with what they do well. It’s not really in the nature of a National album to thrill upon impact; at least for me, their songs sound great in the background until the random moment, which might not come until years later, when you’re driving with Boxer on in the background and you suddenly notice that, holy shit, “Ada” is just an incredible song. I don’t doubt that Trouble Will Find Me has plenty of hidden gems like that, things waiting to be discovered. But certain moments on the album — most of the instruments suddenly going silent for the calm-in-the-storm moment on “Sea Of Love,” the plainspoken and bedraggled vocal on “Humiliation” — that already slay me. More moments like that will reveal themselves. They always do.
I don’t think Trouble Will Find Me is going to change too many lives. But its soft, majestic intensity is a reassuring and comfortable thing. I know way too many critics happy to dismiss the National as aging-yuppie lifestyle music. But there’s a whole lot of value in a band knowing their musical identity backwards and forwards, developing and growing into their sound, expertly coloring in the lines that they’ve already drawn. Once again, the National have made a very good National album, and that’s all I really need them to do.
Thank you Tom for expressing how I feel; you saved me the brain-damage of coming up with the words. Happy National Day indeed!
Some other great National links related to the new album:
- The official video for “Sea of Love” and their performance of it on Jimmy Fallon
- The band visited KEXP in Seattle and played four songs off the album. Listen here.
- FILTER Magazine put the National on the cover of next week’s issue.
- Information (including a trailer) about the just-released documentary about the band, Mistaken for Strangers
Some other great National links and notes:
- The National are playing at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Wednesday, June 5. Upper level tickets are still available.
- The band played a SiriusXMU Session last night that is being rebroadcast Tues 5/21 10:00 am ET; Wed 5/22 9:00 pm ET; Thurs 5/23 4:00 pm ET; Fri 5/24 9:00 am ET; Sun 5/26 12:00 pm ET.
- NYCtaper has a recording of one of the Beacon Theatre shows from December 13, 2011. It’s a rare chance to hear “Rylan”; it’s also a chance to hear “I Need My Girl” as it was originally conceived. I highly recommend downloading the entire show, which includes an incredibly powerful version of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” (from High Violet). (Note in the pics below how the band brought the opening acts and anyone else they could find on stage for the Vanderlyle sing-along.)
- Feast of Music posted photos shot from the second row from that Beacon Theatre show!
- MTV hosted a live set from the National early in 2011 that can still be seen here
- NPR’s All Songs Considered hosts an 80 minute set from the National recorded live at a 2007 D.C. concert. This one has some deeper cuts off of Alligator and Boxer.
- Some other NYC-area live recordings from NYCTaper: December 8, 2010 at Maxwell’s; July 29, 2010 at Terminal 5; August 4, 2008 at Central Park’s Summerstage; February 22, 2008 at BAM; August 17, 2007 at South Street Seaport.
Finally, some of the words I’ve written about the National in the past:
- Brothers, Cousins, and the National, posted December 6, 2012
- 25 Best Albums of the Year (for 2010), posted December 10, 2012
- Top 10 all-time favorite albums from Brooklyn artists, posted January 8, 2013
- The National Perform “Sorrow” Over and Over and Over Again, posted May 6, 2013
Photos from the December 13, 2011 show:
Photos from the December 17, 2011 show:
Update: Despite my desperate efforts, I did not get in to see the National play their super-intimate show at Mercury Lounge last night. (Pics and setlist here) However, as I walked up to the venue at around 9pm, I did have one memorable moment when this man walked outside to say hello to the fans and take photos with just a few of us: