The National continues getting better

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Alex LaSalle

The National has made a career out of delayed satisfaction, and it’s working better than ever.

“Trouble Will Find Me,” the band’s sixth album since its 2001 debut, focuses more than ever on singer Matt Beringer’s dark, slurring tone. It’s a fresh change of pace from indie music’s preference for pale, skinny kids that could wear your sister’s jeans.

It’s also an improvement for a band where each and every album shows improvement from the last.

The music behind the album is a perfectly-blended mix of guitars, keyboards, sparse percussion and whatever other instrument they could fit in there. However thick the arrangement gets, Beringer’s voice is still the star of the show.

The acoustic base of lead track “I Should Live in Salt” sets the tone for the rest of the album, sitting somewhere between a scaled-back Oasis number and a brighter-sounding Radiohead ballad. The lyrics, mostly thanks to Beringer, sit neatly on the edge of dark and sobering without getting outright depressing.

Few of the songs here are immediate, continuing The National’s reign as a band of delayed gratification. The exceptions are the wonderful, driving “Sea of Love” and “Graceless.” The rest of the time there is the subdued melancholy they’ve mastered. Some of the songs, like “Demons” or twitchy guitars on “I Need My Girl,” take a couple listens to really appreciate.

The downside is that the focus on delayed enjoyment gets a bit too delayed. “Fireproof” just sort of rolls forward to the next song without adding or taking anything from the album. Granted, that’s more an issue of editing than any fault in songwriting.

After six albums, The National is more or less indie-rock royalty, with background guest appearances from the likes of Sufjan Stevens and St. Vincent, while they would go unnoticed if nobody told you.

The National is a band that has spent the past 12 years slowly climbing the mountain of greatness, and it has quietly reached the summit with “Trouble Will Find Me.”