Having graced the Grammys and conquered the pyramid stage with 2017’s Sleep Well Beast, The National had planned to take a break. According to the band, there was little appetite to record new music. A chance encounter with filmmaker Mike Mills (who goes on to produce some of the new album) led the five-piece to reconvene and begin putting together what would become I Am Easy To Find. With Mills originally reaching out to make a music video, the project soon morphed into something bigger. The film of the same name used discarded music from Sleep Well Beast, but the process inspired new songs from frontman Matt Berninger which became the new LP.
The result is a puzzling album, which despite exploring interesting rhythms and restrained arrangements, meanders through its sixteen tracks without proving wholly engaging. With the instrumentals more pensieve, Berninger’s vocals doesn’t do the heavy lifting it needs to. Instead it’s left to the numerous guest artists to provide the vocal lift that these ambient tracks require. Gracing six tracks is Bowie collaborator Gail Ann Dorsey, along with spots from This Is the Kit’s Kate Stables and 2019’s newest superstar Sharon von Etten. The National have said this album is meant to address issues around gender by showcasing these female vocals, and they are the most captivating part of these songs by a distance. It’s somewhat baffling then that the band would choose to release under their own moniker. Borne of curious beginnings, even with repeated listens, I Am Easy To Find proves hard to fathom.
I Am Easy To Find is out now via 4AD.