The National are releasing their eighth studio album, I Am Easy to Find, on May 17th via 4AD. The album comes accompanied by a short 24-minute film directed by Mike Mills that stars award winning actress, Alicia Vikander. The album isn’t a soundtrack to the film, although the title track plays over the top of the trailer. The song sounds like a lullaby, with a slow-moving synth sound and gentle vocals that intertwine within the melody. For a band that is known for having a distinct male voice dominating the score, the feminine harmonies and softer tones push this album into new territory.
The film centers around a woman and the album contains many female vocal contributions from Lisa Hannigan, Sharon Van Etten, Mina Tindle, Gail Ann Dorsey, and Kate Stables, among others. Dorsey, known for her longtime stint in David Bowie’s band, features on the album’s lead single, “You Had Your Soul With You”. The album opener starts with an erratic rhythm, reminiscent of a malfunctioning police siren, that then bleeds into a soft harmony of vocals. Dorsey’s low rumble of “you have no idea how I died when you left” grounds the song in a way that pulls the listener down with it. Dorsey isn’t a background artist here, she is very much the hook on the end of a heart-string.
This album marks a change in the band’s usual song structure. Known for their iconic build ups that end in big flourishes of noise, this album contains songs that are much more fluid and allow more room for intricacies. In addition, the inclusion of new voices and perspectives, which itself a new exercise by a band long since dominated by a singular voice, is pivotal in the understanding of the emotional intelligence of the album.
“Her Father in the Pool” creates a hollowed-out space in the middle of the album that strikes from left field with perspective. It establishes its own spiritual experience with the ring of choral vocals that builds up and falls back down, for a whole minute before fading out to pave the way for the rest of the album. Following a futuristic soundscape, imagine what a galaxy of stars sounds like because this is the closest many of us will get.