Album of the Week: The National | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, July 15th, 2024  

Album of the Week: The National

Alex Lahey Is the Runner-up (Plus Stream New Albums and EPs from Interpol; Carly Rae Jepsen; Tyler, The Creator; and More)

May 17, 2019 Album of the Week Bookmark and Share

The National released a new album, I Am Easy to Find, today via 4AD and it’s our Album of the Week. Find more info on the album below, as well as on a strong runner-up that was almost our Album of the Week. Below that are streams of other notable albums released today.

The National: I Am Easy to Find (4AD)

The National have released a new album, I Am Easy to Find, today via 4AD. It is accompanied by a 24-minute short film directed by Mike Mills and starring Oscar-winning Swedish actress Alicia Vikander.

The project came together when Mills, who has directed iconic music videos and feature films such as 20th Century Women and Beginners, approached frontman Matt Berninger in September 2017 about collaborating together. Instead of just having Mills make a music video or two for them, they decided to get him much further involved in the album, so much so that Mills co-produced with the band. The album was recorded in Long Pond, Hudson Valley, NY, with additional sessions in Paris, Berlin, Cincinnati, Austin, Dublin, Brooklyn, and elsewhere.

The previous press release further explained the project and the relationship between the film and album: “The result is I Am Easy to Find, a 24-minute film by Mills starring Alicia Vikander, and I Am Easy to Find, a 68-minute album by The National. The former is not the video for the latter; the latter is not the soundtrack to the former. The two projects are, as Mills calls them, ‘Playfully hostile siblings that love to steal from each other’ - they share music and words and DNA and impulses and a vision about what it means to be human in 2019, but don’t necessarily need one another. The movie was composed like a piece of music; the music was assembled like a film, by a film director. The frontman and natural focal point was deliberately and dramatically sidestaged in favor of a variety of female voices, nearly all of whom have long been in the group’s orbit. It is unlike anything either artist has ever attempted and also totally in line with how they’ve created for much of their careers.”

You can read our rave review of I Am Easy to Find here.

In a brief excerpt from her review, our writer Celine Teo-Blockey writes: “Essentials include the driving ‘Rylan;’ where Berninger moves beyond solipsism with Bryan Devendorf’s exquisite pacing on drums, rattling at the seams with the Dessner twins’ detailed soundscapes. ‘The Pull of You,’ where two opposing voices are connected but at odds, tenuously delivers disjointed excuses in spoken words. It then forces Berninger to the higher register: ‘Maybe we’ll talk it out inside a car/With rain falling around us,’ imbibing every word with ever-higher stakes. But there’s no reason to think it’s going to end well.”

Previously The National shared I Am Easy to Find‘s first single, “You Had Your Soul with You” (which features guest vocals from David Bowie collaborator Gail Ann Dorsey and was our #1 Song of the Week), as well as a trailer for the film. Then they shared another song from the album, closing track “Light Years,” via a video made up of footage from the film, with Vikander playing a woman seen through the years, from childhood to motherhood. “Light Years” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Then they shared another song from it, “Hairpin Turns,” via a Mills-directed black & white video for the track that doesn’t feature footage from the short film, but instead showcases the band performing the song in a stark white space. The song features Gail Ann Dorsey and Lisa Hannigan and the video features vocalists Dorsey, Pauline de Lassus (aka Mina Tindle), and This Is the Kit’s Kate Stables. “Hairpin Turns” was our #1 Song of the Week.

Then they shared the full short film several days early, as well as releasing two separate commentary videos on the film, one by Mills and one by frontman Matt Berninger and his wife (and lyric co-writer) Carin Besser, plus a video of a live Q&A in New York about the film featuring Mills and the band, hosted by Julien Baker.

Then they stopped by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to perform the album’s “You Had Your Soul With You.” They were aided by a string quartet and two guest singers, Stables and de Lassus. On the eve of the album’s release they shared one last song from it, “Rylan,” which also made our Songs of the Week list.

The album also features vocal contributions from Sharon Van Etten, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and more.

“Yes, there are a lot of women singing on this, but it wasn’t because, ‘Oh, let’s have more women’s voices,’” said frontman Matt Berninger in a previous press release. “It was more, ‘Let’s have more of a fabric of people’s identities.’ It would have been better to have had other male singers, but my ego wouldn’t let that happen.”

The National released their excellent last album album, Sleep Well Beast, in September 2017 via 4AD. It was our Album of the Week and #7 on our Top 100 Albums of 2017 list.

Read our 2018 interview with The National.

Read our 2017 interview with The National on Sleep Well Beast.

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

Read our 2012 interview with Alicia Vikander, as well as our 2015 interview with her.

The National Tour Dates:

6/11 - Philadelphia, PA @ Mann Center*
6/12 - Brooklyn, NY @ Prospect Park Bandshell*
6/13 - Brooklyn, NY @ Prospect Park Bandshell*
6/15 - Manchester, TN @ Bonnaroo
6/16 - Atlanta, GA @ Coca-Cola Roxy*
6/17 - St Augustine, FL @ St Augustine Amphitheatre*
6/19 - Washington, DC @ The Anthem*
6/20 - Portland, ME @ Thompson’s Point*
6/21 - Montreal, QC @ Place des Arts
6/22 - Hamilton, ON @ Pier 8**
6/24 - Columbus, OH @ Express Live*
6/25 - Ann Arbor, MI @ Hill Auditorium*
6/26 - Indianapolis, IN @ Lawn at White River*
6/28 - Chicago, IL @ Northerly Island**
7/10 - Manchester, UK @ Castlefield Bowl
7/12 - Madrid, ES @ Mad Cool Festival
7/13 - London, UK @ Hyde Park
7/15 - Frankfurt, DE @ Jahrhunderthalle
7/16 - Hamburg, DE @ Stadtpark
7/18 - Rättvik, SE @ Dalhalla
8/4 - Waterford, IE @ All Together Now
8/6 - Glasgow, UK @ Summer Nights at the Bandstand
8/7 - Glasgow, UK @ Summer Nights at the Bandstand
8/9 - Sicily, IT @ Ypsigrock
8/10 - Budapest, HU @ Sziget Festival
8/11 - Buftea, RO @ Summer Well
8/14 - Paredes de Coura, PT @ Paredes de Coura
8/16 - Hasselt, BE @ Pukkelpop
8/16—8/18 - Biddinghuizen, NL @ Lowlands
8/18 - Hasselt, BE @ Pukkelpop
8/28 - Vancouver, BC @ Deer Lake Park**
8/29 - Seattle, WA @ Marymoor Park**
8/30 - Portland, OR @ Edgefield**
9/1 - Stanford, CA @ Frost Amphitheater**
9/2 - Los Angeles, CA @ Greek Theatre**
9/3 - Phoenix, AZ @ Comerica Theatre**
9/5 - Ogden, UT @ Ogden Amphitheater**
9/6 - Denver, CO @ Mission Ballroom**
9/7 - Denver, CO @ Mission Ballroom**
9/8 - Santa Fe, NM @ Santa Fe Opera House**
9/10 - Austin, TX @ Austin360 Amphitheatre**
9/11 - Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall**
10/16 - Mexico City, MX @ Pepsi Center
10/24 - Boston, MA @ Agganis Arena
11/25 - Warsaw, PL @ Torwar Hall
11/26 - Berlin, DE @ Columbiahalle
11/27 - Berlin, DE @ Columbiahalle
11/29 - Copenhagen, DK @ Royal Arena
12/1 - Bochum, DE @ Ruhrcongress
12/2 - Cologne, DE @ Palladium
12/3 - Zurich, SW @ Samsung Hall
12/4 - Munich, DE @ Zenith
12/5 - Stuttgart, DE @ Porsche Arena

*w/ Courtney Barnett
**w/ Alvvays

Album of the Week Runner-up:

Alex Lahey: The Best of Luck Club (Dead Oceans)

Australian singer/songwriter Alex Lahey released a new album, The Best of Luck Club, today via Dead Oceans.

The album is the follow-up to her 2017-released debut album, I Love You Like a Brother (it was our joint Album of the Week and one of our favorites albums of that year). Lahey began writing The Best of Luck Club in Nashville, sometimes locking herself in a room for 12-hour days. Then the album was recorded over the course of a month in her hometown of Melbourne at Sing Sing South. Lahey co-produced the album alongside Grammy-winning producer Catherine Marks (Local Natives, St. Vincent, Manchester Orchestra). Lahey plays nearly every instrument on the album, with the appearance of the saxophone a reference to her past studying jazz saxophone at university.

Lahey had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “In Nashville I was really inspired by the dive bar scene there and the idea that at these dive bars there’s no pretentious energy. Whether you’ve had the best day of your life or the worst day of your life, you can just sit up at the bar and turn to the person next to you - who has no idea who you are - and have a chat. And the response that you generally get at the end of the conversation is, ‘Best of luck,’ so The Best of Luck Club is that place.”

The previous press release described the sound of the album as such: “The Best of Luck Club picks up where Brother left off, but sprints forward with killer hooks, her acute sense of humor, and a more polished sound. Throughout, Lahey’s sharp songwriting and propensity for taking personal minute details and transforming them into anthemic pop-punk is showcased as she sings about self-doubt, break-ups, mental health, moving in with her girlfriend, vibrators, and generational ennui. Here, Lahey documents ‘the highest highs and the lowest lows’ of her life to date.”

Previously Lahey shared a video for The Best of Luck Club‘s first single, “Don’t Be so Hard on Yourself,” which features a prominent saxophone solo from Lahey and was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared another song from the album, “Am I Doing It Right,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared another song from the album, the ballad “Unspoken History,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then album track “Isabella” also made our Songs of the Week list today.

Read our review of The Best of Luck Club here.

In a brief excerpt from his review, our writer Michael James Hall writes: “Following her anthemic, angsty 2017-released debut I Love You Like a Brother, Lahey returns with The Best of Luck Club, a bar-room-roused blast of a second record. Rather than viewing darkened dives through the eyes of a Tom Waits or a Conor Oberst, Lahey chooses to translate the transient, booze-soaked interactions into upbeat, empowered pop rock.”

Read our 2017 interview with Alex Lahey.

Alex Lahey Tour Dates:

Fri. May 17 - Liverpool, UK @ Arts Club
Sun. May 19 - Leicester, UK @ The Cookie
Mon. May 20 - Cardiff, UK @ Clwb Ifor Bach
Thu. May 23 - London, UK @ Oslo
Thu. June 6 - Adelaide, AU @ The Gov
Fri. June 7 - Perth, AU @ Rock Rover
Thu. June 13 - Brisbane, AU @ The Tivoli
Fri. June 14 - Canberra, AU @ The Basement
Sat. June 15 - Sydney, AU @ Metro Theatre
Sat. June 22 - Melbourne, AU @ Forum Melbourne
Fri. Aug. 9 - Sun. Aug. 11 - San Francisco, CA @ Outside Lands
Tue. Aug. 13 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Troubadour
Wed. Aug. 14 - Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar
Thu. Aug. 16 - Austin, TX @ Antone’s
Sat. Aug. 17 - Dallas, TX @ Deep Ellum Art Co.
Mon. Aug. 19 - Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
Tue. Aug. 20 - Nashville, TN @ Exit / In
Thu. Aug. 22 - Washington, DC @ U Street Music Hall
Fri. Aug. 23 - Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Sat. Aug. 24 - Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
Sun. Aug. 25 - Allston, MA @ Great Scott
Tue. Aug. 27 - Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
Wed. Aug. 28 - St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club
Sun. Sep. 1 - Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret
Tue. Sep. 3 - Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge

Also Released This Week:

Interpol: A Fine Mess EP (Matador)

Carly Rae Jepsen: Dedicated (School Boy/Interscope)

Operators: Radiant Dawn (Last Gang)

Tyler, The Creator: IGOR (Columbia)

Josephine Wiggs: We Fall (The Sound of Sinners)

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