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National - I Am Easy To Find - 2LP -

Price per Unit (stuk): €38.95

With a cast of female vocalists guiding and redirecting the songs, the National’s eighth album is their largest, longest, and most daring.

There’s a lot to marvel at on any National album: the regality, the musicianship, the compositional flourishes, the ornate displays of sublimated rage. The ex-Brooklynites are among the smallest handful of ’00s bands to close out the ’10s with a higher stock than what they entered with; theirs is one of the richest dynamics in indie rock. But for all they’re good at, every album has been first and foremost a litmus test on singer Matt Berninger. To enjoy the National, you’ve got to enjoy him.

Anybody who’s followed the band for seven albums has likely done so because they’ve connected with Berninger’s dapper hangdog persona, a Cary Grant interpretation of Leonard Cohen. He’s the kind of singer who can express listeners’ ugliest insecurities yet somehow make them sound like a brag, forever the star of his own movie where not much happens but it’s all beautifully shot. It’s a real feat spinning a fantasy out of feelings so messy. Even for listeners growing tired of his grousing voiceovers, or those who never liked it much to begin with, the band’s form-breaking eighth album I Am Easy To Find offers another way in. For the first time, Berninger is just a piece of this universe, not the center.

On nearly every song Berninger is accompanied and sometimes silenced by a rotation of featured female vocalists who step in to offer perspective, commentary, and dissent. It’s perhaps yet another lesson internalized from Cohen, whose songs regularly called on a chorus of women as their voice of reason. And like Cohen, the National have recruited some of the best singers out, among them Lisa Hannigan, Mina Tindle, Kate Stables, Sharon Van Etten, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, whose spotlight “Dust Swirls in Strange Light” benches Berninger all together. Most revelatory of all is Gail Ann Dorsey, David Bowie’s longtime bassist and backing singer, who heralds the album’s new direction midway through opener “You Had Your Soul With You.” Her extraordinary voice of saffron arrives like a divine intervention, instantly parting a track that had previously been National-by-numbers.

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