THE NATIONAL I Am Easy To Find gets 6/10

The National

I Am Easy To Find
4AD/Remote Control


Which of your favourite bands would sound better with a different singer? That’s a question The National inevitably pose on their eighth album I Am Easy to Find.

Released alongside the rather remarkable Alicia Vikander starring, Mike Mills directed short film of the same name (check it out below in full), I Am Easy to Find is nonetheless a standalone album and a curiosity in The National’s esteemed catalogue.

It opens promisingly with forward-thinking first single You Had Your Soul With You and the avant-pop of Quiet Light, but from there the first half settles into a too-comfortable collection of simple ballads with abstract arrangements. Coupled with the fact it’s The National’s longest album across 16 tracks and nearly 64 minutes, early listens can be a bit of a chore.

This is where the new voices care of Sharon Van Etten, This Is the Kit’s Kate Stables, David Bowie collaborator Gail Ann Dorsey and more take centre stage. The eclecticism suggests something akin to this being The National’s Exile on Main Street, but without a Bloodbuzz Ohio or Fake Empire in sight, the songs aren’t strong enough minus Matt Berninger’s expressive delivery. Suffice to say, no Slow Show results.

Oblivion and Hey Rosey, as examples, are pleasant enough tracks. The former with its driving piano is a highlight of the film, but placed at track four it asks too much of French singer Mina Tindle, while Dorsey is simply overused with her third track in six outings by the time the rigid and mechanical Hey Rosey comes around. Later on, Bryce Dessner’s choral workout Dust Swirls in Strange Light is the definition of an unnecessary deep cut.

The feminine touch works best on the most electronic numbers – the ones that sound the least like The National. The epic So Far So Fast and dense The Pull of You are far from perfect but are sonically and texturally intriguing with one-time Damien Rice backing vocalist Lisa Hannigan providing a strong focal point.

The biggest highlights invariably come from the moments you might describe as the most ‘National-sounding’. Despite a lack of ‘rock’ numbers, drummer Bryan Devendorf can always be relied upon to lift the mundane to new heights, while Berninger’s lyrical turns and phrasing on Not In Kansas, Rylan and Light Years will ensure fans have new tracks to latch onto live.

Not a bad album, I Am Easy to Find nonetheless feels like a continuation of The National’s diminishing returns since the Alligator, Boxer and High Violet trilogy. Many songs come from the sessions for previous albums and it shows; at its worst, this could fairly be described as a “boring” National record. But as a standalone piece of art, accompanied by a film and a cast of thousands ranging singers to strings to choirs, it eventually proves rewarding, and ambitious enough to warrant further investigation.


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