One of these days, they will slip up and fall flat with a release…but that day is not today. From the opening track, The National sweep us through a cloud of intoxicated smoke and beautiful arrangements. Each song, as with every National album, feels like a fantastic novel by itself. The words flow like the most important conversation in the final act on the final night of a Broadway play. Aaron, Bryan, Bryce and Scott show their expertise in the molding of negative space. They fill each song perfectly, using each other like a bouncy ball does with walls in an empty room.
The album starts out strong from the gate with I SHOULD LIVE IN SALT followed by DEMONS and DON’T SWALLOW THE CAP which were the first two singles released. Don’t Swallow the Cap reminds me of The Cure during the wild late 80’s. The bouncy rhythm will send the electrons to your brain to move your head in a favorable motion without you realizing it. Matt’s breathless rambling here harks back to the beauty of some of their elder albums. Sandwiched in the middle are a couple songs might be the real heart of this album. FIREPROOF and HEAVENFACED are both songs that linger in the backdrop but provide a somewhat ambient texture. Two of my personal faves here is SEA OF LOVE and THIS IS THE LAST TIME. While structured completely different, both harness the power that The National can present. This is the… is layered, almost as if its about three different songs within one. Matt makes himself the martyr of an addiction and leaves us guessing if there is any truth to the title . Sea of Love on the other hand is a bit more hypnotic with a dramatic chorus that pushes the song along in waves of careful chaos.
As the album comes to a close, Slipped and Humiliation are strong anchors to the back end with maybe my favorite track of the album Graceless. The repeatative drum beat that Scott plays resembles a racing train, plunging through the underneath tunnels of NYC. His work is beautiful throughout, but he captures the tone of this song perfectly. Matt slithers between the beat and distinct but distant piano keys to toss his heart, bloody and still beating, upon the table for all to view. For those new to National, I would recommend starting somewhere else (maybe Boxer or Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers). I say this not to demine this collection but that all of their past albums allow the listener to appreciate this one even more.