There is a lot to unpack when reviewing the new album from The National. I Am Easy To Find is the follow-up to 2017’s Sleep Well Beast and it’s music is featured in short movie from director Mike Mills with several female singers appearing on the album such as Lisa Hannigan and Sharon Van Etten. Mills is named as a co-producer on the album became a de-facto member of the group during the recording.
First single “You Had Your Soul With You” leads off the album with disorienting drums and electronics before the noise falls away with Gail Anne Dorsey singing, “you have no idea how hard I died when you left”. “Quiet Light” is a more typical track from the band with just Matt Berninger singing and it’s added orchestration. “Oblivions” deals with the trials and tribulations of marriage with Mina Tindle offering a counterpoint to Berninger’s ruminations. Fourth single “Rylan” has been kicking around for a few years and is another classic sounding track from the band that adds electronics and is (nearly) anthemic.
It is telling that the title track is one of the best songs but features a lyric Guided By Voices which is the part that sticks though Berninger’s low rumbling voice beneath Kate Stables’ singing “I’m still waiting for you every night with ticker tape” is great. At 64 minutes, there are several moments that are professionally done yet just flat out dull. It was recently noted on Steven Hyden’s twitter feed from fans that several of the new songs sound amazing live. It is easy to imagine tracks like “Where Is Her Head” would light up a crowd. At times the electronic bits and orchestration of Aaron and Bryce Dessner blunts the excitement and takes away from the excellent drumming of Bryan Devendorf. While the music is mostly quite beautiful, too often it blends into the background.