A moment of honesty: I've been disappointed by a lot of the recent efforts by the artists I hold highest: the xx, James Blake, Beach House, Youth Lagoon and the rest. It would be unreasonable to call any of their records bad, or even anything less than solid, but I was underwhelmed by their inability to recapture the magic that brought them to the spotlight.
That is not the case with the National's TROUBLE WILL FIND ME. It could have been, and it looked like it was heading that way because the first two songs they released were blood-slowing trudgers. They man the album's first two slots, but after that, there is no slump for the National. I haven't listened to anything else this much all year. Lines are in my head when I wake, and the melodies dictate the motion of my day. It's as good as anything they've ever done, further cementing their place as a central, inclusive fixture in the indie rock landscape.
In all the National pieces I've read over the last couple of weeks, every music journalist and blogger seems to feel it necessary to address the criticism floating in the air. Meaning, I don't actually see a lot of the actual criticism, maybe they're random Twitterers and Hype Machine squatters, I just see a lot of pre-emptive defenses. By and large, this seems to be a beloved band, but I think we're pulled to justify them because, on paper, this band shouldn't work. In indie rock's culture of cutting edge coolness, where "trendiness" has been replaced by "relevance", a bunch of 40 year-olds in dark menswear making songs of constant sorrow shouldn't be an institution. But then you listen to them.