Listening to The National can feel like being cornered at a party by an earnest individual determined to make you understand, whether you like it or not, a particular subject’s most intricate subtleties.

But, like that well-intentioned party guest, they have something worthwhile to say, and, over time, do so rewardingly.

Their eighth, lengthy album takes a conversational tangent by having Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mike Mills co-produce, as well as direct an accompanying short film.

One consequence is the addition of multiple singers, including Bowie acolyte Gail Ann Dorsey on intricate opener You Had Your Soul With You, Lisa Hannigan and Sharon Van Etten on the moody The Pull Of You, and the 24-strong Brooklyn Youth Chorus on the cyclical, complex Dust Swirls In Strange Light.

In fact, almost 80 musicians appear, exercising Bryce Dessner’s considerable arrangement skills, especially on the clattering, rousing Where Is Her Head. Despite this, their finest moment’s really obscure 90s art-indie-rockers Thinking Fellers Union Local 282’s, who lend their desperately moving Noble Experiment for the end of the muted, Lou Reed-like Not In Kansas. It takes a geek to know that.



Wyndham Wallace


*review contains affiliate links