Consumer Guide Album
The National: I Am Easy to Find [4AD, 2019]
I was pleased and surprised to enjoy the 23-minute YouTube-available Mike Mills film of the same name, a kind, imagistic birth-to-death biography of a white middle-class working mother that's intertwined somehow with the making of the band's eighth album. But the film has only one explicit connection to the album that occasionally pokes through its surface: it's about a woman. Hence women often make themselves heard, and their voices transform how the music sounds, feels, and signifies. Matt Berninger's love/relationship songs have often had some tenderness to them, and he's gotten more relaxed about it over the years. But here almost every track is open to substantive female input on a musical whole that feels consistently interactive and empathetic and also not so glum--even when you can't pin down exact meanings, it makes love sound possible. Inconveniently, the almost entirely female "So Far So Fast" is the one track that goes nowhere, and for 6:37 at that. Then again, "Not in Kansas," the 6:45 autobiography-with-(female)-Greek chorus just before it, evokes the bicoastal diaspora with a regret so sharp and indelible it feels tragic--and is.