Fans of The National have waited four years for Sleep Well Beast and should definitely not sleep on this release. The Cincinnati indie rock band’s seventh album could arguably be the band’s best. The 12 tracks put out by Matt Berninger, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Scott Devendorf, and Bryan Devendorf are more raw than their previous releases. The National’s 18-year career puts a lot of pressure on them to impress and we hear Berninger singing about being at “a loss” and “losing grip.” This album is not about the joys of life, but about how to endure it.
The album addresses challenges Berninger faces as a father, the election last November, and the commitment of marriage. On “I’ll Still Destroy You”, Berninger struggles with the notion that he may be a harmful father. “Put your heels against the wall / I swear you got a little bit taller since I saw you/ I’ll still destroy you.”
“Turtleneck” when compared to the average The National release is untamed. Punchy guitar riffs support the attack on the current presidential administration. “Another man in shitty suits everybody’s cheering for / This must be the genius we’ve been waiting years for / Oh no, this is so embarrassing” are the lyrics Berninger wrote the day after the election.
Sleep Well Beast is a beautiful type of bleak you want to wallow in forever. While The National hasn’t released an album since 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me, Sleep Well Beast feels like an old friend. Berninger’s signature baritone and dark humor are comforting despite being lined with gloom.
The band’s worldwide tour in support of the album has already sold out in many cities as fans gear up to hear The National’s live use of synthesizers like never before. Sleep Well Beast provides classic National appeal without sounding stale. It is exquisite.
Recommended If You Like: Iron and Wine, Radiohead, Interpol
Recommended Tracks: 2 (Day I Die), 4 (The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness), 6 (Turtleneck), 11 (Dark Side of the Gym)
Do Not Play: 3 (Walk it Back)
Written by Miranda Roberts on 09/17/2017