During today’s Free at Noon, indie rock giants The National treated us to an early taste of over half of their new album. Produced by Mike Mills, I Am Easy To Find will be officially released tomorrow, May 17th, and is accompanied by a short film directed by Mills and staring Alicia Vikander. Expanded to a ten-piece band, The National showcased ten of the album’s sixteen tracks, demonstrating the beauty and strength of the project. Vocalist Matt Berninger led a the group’s vast array of instruments and vocalists, and kept everything from sounding overwhelming. The resulting set was a glorious display of emotion and expansive sound.
They opened with “You Had Your Soul With You”, which they performed on The Late Show on Tuesday night. The track, which was the first they shared off the album and serves as the first in its track list, shows their musical horizons starting to expand. Vocalists Kate Stables (This Is The Kit) and Pauline de Lassus (Mina Tindle), joined Berninger on stage, adding a new dimension to the band’s sound. They sung throughout the show, representing the inclusion of female voices and perspectives across the record. Stables and de Lassus often felt like co-leads alongside Berninger, like on “The Pull of You”, which they opened alone.
The darker and moodier moments of the set were delivered earnestly and beautifully, creating an atmosphere of melancholy in the packed World Cafe Live. The xx reminiscent track “Oblivions” got everyone swaying and jittering along. “Quiet Light”, with its recurrent affirmations of support seemed to touch everyone. Many stood pensively with their eyes closed, especially during the warm horn solos that closed the track. Those horns appeared throughout, and their presence on the title track felt like a heartfelt hug from a loved one. The band was able to express a whole range of emotions through their complicated web of sound. Aaron Dessner spoke before they played the tender “I Am Easy To Find” and dedicated it to his friend, Adia Victoria, who played the same stage not even 24 hours before, and was watching the set from the balcony.
The band quickly contrasted the solemness of these tracks with the brightness of “Where Is Her Head”. Sung mostly by Stables and de Lassus, the track replaced the grey aura that filled the room with glittering oranges and pinks. “Rylan” continued the upbeat-streak. The song, which declared that “everyone loves a quiet child,” showed The National playing with their volume. Towards the end they repeatedly built up their sound, only to swiftly quiet it. These tracks, as well as the continuously expanding “Hey Rosy”, beamed with energy.
Easy To Find‘s closing track, “Light Years,” was the simplest and most moving they played. With its heartbreaking lyrics and one of the saddest basslines ever played, the track left the crowd awestruck. They could have stopped there, with tears quietly building in everyone’s eyes, but they continued with “Not In Kansas.” While its lyrics focused on the craziness plaguing the world, the track felt small and insular. In closing with it, The National went out with a polite wave, rather than with a bang.
During his introduction to “Not In Kansas,” Berninger remarked that “everything bad about the record [they] always blame on [Mike Mills] and [they] take credit for all the good stuff”. He continued with a humble “there’s some good stuff.” He lied. There’s a lot of good stuff.
I Am Easy To Find is out tomorrow via 4AD.
You Had Your Soul With You
The Pull of You
I Am Easy To Find
Where Is Her Head
Not In Kansas
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