2017’s ‘Sleep Well Beast’ was a huge moment for The National, winning them their first Grammy. The tense, dark record was so impressive it seemed hard to imagine a follow-up. However, ‘I Am Easy to Find’ sees the band returning stronger than ever with their most cinematic work yet.
Alongside the album comes a short film, directed by Mike Mills and starring Alicia Vikander. The band were certain in saying that the film and music weren’t necessarily connected and consumed as stand-alone pieces you wouldn’t say otherwise. However, at one of the special listening events taking place in the week before its release, watching the film and then listening to the album is truly a special experience.
The premise of the film follows Vikander through the entirety of her life from birth to death. Lyrics from the album appear flittingly throughout the film and you can’t help but think of scenes from the film while listening. On ‘Roman Holiday’ the lines “please think the best of him/think the best of me” draw your mind to the scene where the star argues with her mother over marrying her husband. Parallels appear even earlier in the film when the father reads Vikander a story, which are also the lyrics to the standout track ‘Where is Her Head?”.
Musically, ‘I am Easy To Find’ is the bands most accomplished album. Berninger’s lyrics are some of his most powerful, the compositions of Aaron Dessner are absolutely stunning. The most unique attribute to the album is the number of female voices throughout. It’s hard to imagine what the frontman’s notorious dark baritone would sound like mixed with a female voice, but it makes for an absolutely beautiful juxtaposition every time. It’s surprising to how much Berninger takes a step back completely on tracks like “So Far So Fast” where Lisa Hannigan is the only voice for almost half the song. The authoritative vocals of Gail Ann Dorsey on ‘You Had Your Soul with You’ compete with Matt’s in the most powerful way and the spoken word from Sharon Van Etten on ‘The Pull of You’ brings a fresh voice to The National’s sound.
The National have absolutely surpassed ‘Sleep Well Beast’ on this record. The music is reinventive while still maintaining the bands signature style and Matt Berninger remains one of indie rocks greatest lyricists, even when other voices are singing his words.