Album of the Week: The National | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, July 12th, 2024  

Album of the Week: The National

Sleep Well Beast Out Now via 4AD

Sep 08, 2017 Album of the Week Bookmark and Share

Find It At: {article-find} {name} {/article-find}

The National is The National is The National. After 18 years and six albums, the Ohio spawned ensemble make a sound you can spot a mile off: that rich rumble of Matt Berninger’s moribund baritone; those quivering, tear-duct moistening laments; the spiralling weaves of delicate guitar. Each is the signature of a band that’s burrowed a strong identity groove over the passing years.

Which is exactly what makes album number seven Sleep Well Beast so fascinating. Here the blueprint remains the same as ever, but the execution is more vigorous and purposeful than anything since 2007’s sublime Boxer. From the moment Berninger croaks over piano stained opener “Nobody Else Will Be There” right the way through to the title track’s swansong of glitching electronics it’s obvious The National are mining from a fresh well of impetus.

Perhaps it’s down to the constituent parts no longer living on top of one another. The space between them has been talked up in the record’s pre-release press blitz, and there’s certainly a tighter, more taut atmosphere brewing amongst the likes of the stampeding “Day I Die” and their unlikely (if only for the title) commercial triumph, the jinking “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness.”

Elsewhere, the record ruminates between the fraught and the fragile with typical poise. The brilliant metallic brawl “Turtleneck”-where Berninger awakens his inner Nick Cave- crashes into the ear canals like a barbed wired typhoon. “Guilty Party” is the sheer antithesis, a velvety cushion of piano, plucked guitar and parping brass; while the “Dark Side of the Gym” is the band at its redolent, heart-string tugging best.

Sure, there’s nothing radically different here. Thematically and aesthetically it’s what they’ve always done. But there’s something else at play with Sleep Well Beast. Something more intense, something altogether more breathtaking. That something? The sound of a band scaling even greater heights.

Read our rave 9/10 review of Sleep Well Beast.

Album of the Week Runner-ups (Also Released This Week):

Alvvays: Antisocialites (Polyvinyl)

Deerhoof: Mountain Moves (Joyful Noise)

Ted Leo: The Hanged Man (self-released)

Midnight Sister: Saturn Over Sunset (Jagjaguwar)

Sparks: Hippopotamus (BMG)

Chad VanGaalen: Light Information (Sub Pop)

Zola Jesus: Okovi (Sacred Bones)

Support Under the Radar on Patreon.


Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.