The National – Sleep Well Beast Review

Despite being The National’s seventh studio album ‘Sleep Well Beast’ feels as though it contains a little more of the energy front-man Matt Beringer possesses during the bands live shows. 

With a vocal that is everything we’ve come to expect from The National, opener ‘Nobody Else Will Be There’ drifts into gloomy life like a fine mist descending over you. Just as much of the album, this track feels like a conversation between two world weary people. 

Lead single ‘The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness’ has captivating guitar lines, haunting choir and grand piano, building things into the albums most epic of clouded romance tales. Feeling the most familiar to The National’s sound the track still manages to show enough eccentricities to maintain ‘Sleep Well Beast’s charm.

With drum-loops and digital touches tracks like ‘Empire Line’, ‘I’ll Still Destroy You’ and, regret mixed with cracks in a relationship, ‘Guilty Party,’ reveal that though this isn’t a reinvention of the band’s trademark sound things are allowed to be a little more relaxed around the edges, creating an engrossing scruffiness to the band’s normally neatly pressed suits sound. 

Recent single ‘Day I Die’ and the thoroughly raucous, Nick Cave infused, ‘Turtleneck’ continue the albums sorrowful yet comforting themes but with some headier tumbling percussion.’Turtleneck’ even includes a Pearl-Jam style solo or two, perhaps showing that when The National let themselves go things can really become fun. Though even these tracks aren’t a separation screaming at each other type of tale. As with the majority of tracks these people are seething under their skin, muttering half heard insults and gloomy standing in corners at social gatherings with their Scottish whiskey clutched close to their chests, though potentially dreaming of days when they felt something close to passionate rage.  

‘Born To Beg’ and the hollowed out heart of ‘Carin At The Liquor Store,’ feel as though you have your face pressed to the window of a New York apartment trapped in some unwritten indie film as The National subtly wind their way through gray streets. 

Closer, and title track, ‘Sleep Well Best,’ ends things with a hazy regret filled head. Matt Berninger and co-writer Carin Besser (whom he happens to be married to) have crafted lyrics that feel, if possible, rawer than the band’s previous albums. Understated and held in a familiar muted baritone, Joy Division-esque, atmosphere ‘Sleep Well Beast’ is an unpicking of adult anxiety, paranoia and relationship tensions, mixed with a tiny amount of political concerns and a large helping of morbid self-deprecation from the view point of a depressive, potentially alcoholic, insomniac. And although that doesn’t necessarily sound all that pleasing, as an album these tracks are so heartfelt it’s difficult to not be drawn in.  

The National – Sleep Well Beast = 8/10 

Hayley Miller

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