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November 2019
Review

The National - Sleep Well Beast

The National make magic out of the unpredictable.
The National - Sleep Well Beast
Published: 4:15 pm, September 03, 2017
The National make magic out of the unpredictable.

Label: 4AD
Released: 8th September 2017
Rating: ★★★★

The National have long been celebrated as purveyors of introspection at its most heartfelt. Whether that's something that draws you in or passes you by, there's no shirking the band's proficiency at what they do. Masters of melancholy and intimacy, the Ohio outfit have perfected the power to inspire the most earnest kind of emotion. Sure enough, with 'Sleep Well Beast' there's a lot that remains true to form.

Stuttering into life, 'Walk It Back' sees the band at their most reflective. Matt Berninger, voice rich with emotion and heavy with the toll that takes, utters words of deprecation and resolved determination with shiver inducing proximity. Equal parts lingering affection and stoic resolve, 'Guilty Party' drives through brokenhearted emotion with no shortage of uncertainty, strident piano and shimmering synth lines a brave face in the wake of desperation.

Of course, it's not all dark and brooding. 'Dark Side Of The Gym' meanders through its own affection with a sense of glimmering wonder it's a struggle not to fall for - not that you'd want to fight it. Then there are moments that see the Ohio outfit shatter their mould completely. It's these moments that make 'Sleep Well Beast' so vital. Expanding and evolving as they find new ways to endure, The National make magic out of the unpredictable.

Lead single 'The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness' boasts a guitar riff bolder and more brazen than anything the group have ever done before. From it's rippling synth led introduction, 'I'll Still Destroy You' rocks even harder than it rolls, percussion building and building until it takes control, pummelling through the speakers without restraint.

Then there's album centrepiece 'Turtleneck'. Here we find The National at their most ferocious - actually ferocious - with thundering refrains and vehemently spat lyrics that take the listener on a turbulent roller coaster ride of emotion frenetic enough to leave you physically reeling.

"I'm gonna keep you in love with me for a while," Berninger croons on 'Dark Side Of The Gym'. True to his words, 'Sleep Well Beast' is an album that will keep fans enamoured for a long time to come. Jessica Goodman

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