Matt Berninger, lead singer and songwriter of indie-rock titans The National, is something of a contradiction. He’s made a career of channelling malaise and misery into something bleakly beautiful, yet on stage he exerts a confidence and presence that can feel at odds with the band’s introspective songcraft. Each of their previous six studio albums has managed to capture this dichotomy, but none as effectively as their superb seventh LP, ‘Sleep Well Beast’.
The classic motifs from the best work in their canon are present throughout: Berninger’s gorgeous, molten-gold baritone; Bryan Devendorf’s spectacular drumming (see ‘Day I Die’); and the lead singer’s simple, painful observations on love and loss (notably on album highlight ‘I’ll Still Destroy You’). In particular, ‘Guilty Party’ and ‘Empire Line’ showcase the lead singer’s ability to evoke emotions that are both simultaneously heart-warming and heart-rending.
As with all of the band’s works, ‘Sleep Well Beast’ is an album that rewards repeat listens and unfurls its beauty slowly over time: The National have yet again made an album that’s as brilliant as it is ambitious.
Words: Gibreel Farishta
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