On Friday, The National will release their eighth album in 18 years, I Am Easy To Find. In some ways, it’s very much what you might expect — a moody, slow-burn set that cuts brawny indie rock with avant-classical swells and esoteric electronic flourishes, creating a thoughtful backdrop for Matt Berninger’s fractured, existential narratives about middle-aged urbanites. However, I Am Easy To Find is also quite unlike any record The National has ever made, integrating a supporting cast of female vocalists (including Gail Ann Dorsey and Lisa Hannigan) who frequently displace Berninger altogether.
The National’s ability to carve out a distinctive sound, while also changing just enough to make each new album feel like a new chapter, has kept them at the forefront of mainstream, traditionalist indie music for more than a decade. While I Am Easy To Find affirms the National’s continued creative evolution, it also marks the group’s unofficial transition to a rarefied strata in modern indie. Simply put, there aren’t many active rock bands in the early 21st century that have put out as many quality albums over as long of a period. The National, truly, is a rare breed.
While it seems strange to refer to National as a classic-rock band, they do have a deep enough catalogue now that warrants extensive exploration, as well as a thorough celebration. On the eve of I Am Easy To Find‘s release, I decided to count down my 40 favorite National songs. Making this list was both pretty easy (I could name a couple dozen worthy tracks that didn’t even make the list) and very difficult (I now wish I could somehow put those tracks in this list). But, to quote my favorite National lyric, I believe it’s a good mixture.