The National:

I Am Easy To Find

words by Reese Gorman

Screen Shot 2019-05-18 at 8.30.08 PM.png

The National has taken the sole focus off of lead singer Matt Berninger and added a plethora of female vocals to redirect, move and add dialogue within the songs on their new album “I am Easy to Find.” 

Taking a major risk, “I am Easy to Find” consists of 16 meticulously crafted songs and ballads, that clocks in at 63 minutes and has a total of six added female vocalist. Among these vocalists are Mina Tindle, Sharon Van Etten, Kate Stables, Lisa Hannigan, the Brooklyn Youth Choir and most notably David Bowie ex-bassist and backup singer Gail Ann Dorsey.

The band has previously released seven studio albums, with each one being not that different from the other. Now, in no way is this necessarily a bad thing. Fans are drawn to Berninger’s dark, melodramatic voice; he has this unique knack for making the listener come to peace with their flaws and anxieties. So, what a listener’s love for The National ultimately boils down to is whether or not they love Matt Berninger. If The National were our solar system, Matt Berninger would be the sun.

The record is full of well thought out treasures such as “Quiet Light” which depicts one’s feelings in a time of loss and desperation. “But I’m learning to lie here in the quiet light,” Berninger sings in the chorus. “While I watch the sky go from black to grey/Learning how not to die inside a little every time/I think about you and wonder if you are awake.” These emotions are so real and genuine; there is no sugar-coating or beating around the bush; he tells it how it is.

In contrast to their previous album, “I am Easy to Find” contains multiple ballads that choose depth over flare. The heavy electric base we saw in “Sleep Well Beast” is not standard on this record. “You Had Your Soul With You” and “Where Is Her Head” seem to be the only two songs that have the flashy instrumentals with fast-moving lyrics. Even though they change pace on these two songs, the lyrical complexity we’ve grown accustomed to is still present.

“Oblivions” is one of the most influential songs on the album. Accompanied by Mina Tindle, the ballad sings about love and how, through love, the trust between two lovers become blind. Tindle is in a perennial chasm of oblivion but explains to us that she is ok with it. The reoccurring lyric in the song is “I still got my fear”, but it is always accompanied, usually before, with a verse of unconditional love.

The main critique of The National is that they are boring. Berninger’s voice is very polarizing you either love it or you hate it, but as someone who likes it, I have to admit some songs are vague. “Hairpin Turns,” “Roman Holiday” and “Rylan” although each has a deep lyrical meaning, are boring. They’re not songs I would consider listening to apart from the album. The National have always been fans of the one-word mediocre song title in the form of a name (ex. Ada, England etc.) and the name accurately depicts the song, mediocre. These three songs all have something in common; they’re anti-climactic.

“Light Years” is a heart-tugging melodic tune that is relatable to a T.  It sings about a lost love and how no matter how hard to get over her, he can’t. He struggles to go on without thinking about her, but he knows she is gone and is never coming back.

As outspoken and politically active as The National are you couldn’t expect them not to get controversial on this album. In “Not In Kansas” Berninger takes shots at gun rights “My bedroom is a stranger’s gun room,” radical Republicans “Ohio is a downward spiral/I can’t go back there anymore/Since alt-right opium went viral.” Ohio is where Berninger grew up and in the most recent election voted red for the first time since 2004, which explains his disappointment.

Accompanying the album is a 26-minute tear-jerking short film titled “I am Easy to Find” and is directed by Mike Mills, who also produced the album. Created for the sole purpose of telling the story of the album, many songs off the record appear in the short film.

With this album, The National reemphasized their position amongst the indie-rock greats. With the risk of having accompanying artist for the first time, to shifting the sole focus off of Matt Berninger, this album was wonderfully crafted with few flaws. Their creativity is on full display and the reign of The National lives on for years to come.