Skip to main content

"Sleep Well Beast" - An Utterly Useless Review

Not my photo! Click the link!

So The National have returned with their first album since 2013 and with much (justifiable) fanfare. I feel like some bands/artists have the public's adoration always at their side: Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, The National. I almost wince a little when I tell people they are my favorite band, because I almost feel like I'm clinging to some sort of bandwagon/it cheapens them. Almost. 

But there's a reason that The National are so well-respected and so well-loved: They're that good.

"Sleep Well Beast" seems to follow at the very point where 2013's "Trouble Will Find Me" left off, albeit into more adventurous territory. This was present in two of the first singles from the album: "The System Only Dreams In Darkness" and "Guilty Party." I have to admit "Guilty Party" was a grower for me, but that's sort of the appeal of The National. They're good, but subtly so. It's not ostentatious and not always so obvious. But when it hits you, it hits you like a wayward firetruck - they're brilliant. And for me, "Guilty Party" was representative of that. 



I like to think of this album as The National's "Kid A." I mean, they've already been termed the American Radiohead, so it makes sense. It's also an album about the disintegration of a marriage that is still in tact (in fact, Matt Berninger's wife Carin co-wrote some of the songs on the album. An exercise in couple preservation, I guess). "Carin at the Liquor Store" is one of my favorite tracks on "Beast," and it sounds much like classic, canon National. Plus, it includes a John Cheever reference, which is very suitable for the band's Brooklyn brand (even though the band has now moved to other parts of the globe, like Copenhagen and Cincinnati). 

But perhaps it's a sign of growth - and I'd like to think so, when we can mindfully breach the subjects that most crawl under our skin - that for some heavy subject matter, the album is not overly melancholic. Even with a song titled "I'll Still Destroy You," the band comes off as reflective and tired, but not overly depressed. Which proves for an enjoyable (if not somewhat pensive) listen. 

What "Beast" does carry with it, and immediately apparent from the title, is a sense of doom. Whether that's a dissolving relationship, waning health, or an ever-increasingly gloomy worldview, the doom is present on every decibel of "Beast." It's a (maybe unintentionally, probably not) political album without delving too far into preachy. 

I will say that there are moments I wasn't overly fond of on "Beast." I didn't feel like the opener was a good kick-off track - it felt like a song that should appear later in the line-up. And "Turtleneck," while reminiscent of the band that made "Mr. November," felt so out of place on this album. It's the most rock-driven of all the songs, but I kept thinking "WTH." It's an anomaly - not an awful song by any means, but bizarrely out of left field.

"Walk It Out" - formally known as "Roman Candle" - is quite the treat, though. I felt like the album should have closed with this gentle melodic giant. To me, it's one of the strongest National tracks I've heard. "Day I Die," another single, is ... weirdly catchy and uplifting, for a song called "Day I Die." Well. It's an upside-down apocalyptic world right now, isn't it? 




Lyrically, I would say "Sleep Well Beast" is nearly flawless. Take a look at some of the lines from "I'll Still Destroy You":

The more level they have me
The more I cannot stand me
I have helpless friendships
And bad taste in liquids

Matt, famous for being somewhat wine drunk on stage, reveals a bit of his soul to us, again and again. 

And of course, another impressive thing worth mentioning is the instrumentation on this album. The Dessners, who are the backbone of The National, shine on various moments scattered throughout "Beast."

Overall, I think it's too soon to tell where "Sleep Well Beast" falls in The National discography. It shines, it delivers, but it's not an instant charmer like "Boxer" or "High Violet." "Trouble Will Find Me" was similar in this vein - I didn't adore it at first. Of course, my opinion is one of many out there, and there's a reason this blog is called "The Useless Critic." Formulate your own, dammit! 

Rating: 92/100 - a strong A minus from me! 

Want an alternative perspective? Here's Karl Rove reviewing "Walk It Back."
Also check out The National's reply to him. :) 

Comments


  1. The latest message ringtone this year
    Are you looking for the best ringtone? Still using the default default ringtone? Want to hear quality ringtones? I'll show you
    Ringtones and high quality ringtones. These are examples you can refer to this year and install:

    dil diyan gallan ringtone download
    Ipl ringtone Download
    Mask Off (Marimba Remix) ringtone Download
    Future Bass Xylophone ringtone Download
    Firestone (Marimba Remix) ringtone Download

    Visit my homepage to find better ringtones here: https://bestringtonesfree.net/

    Free ringtones for people around the world. You can install it easily and do not spend a lot of time by following the instructions. Thanks for care!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

3 New Lana Songs Come Out From Upcoming Album "Blue Banisters"

Not even that far off from "Chemtrails Over The Country Club" being released this past March, Lana Del Rey dropped three new singles off her upcoming project, "Blue Banisters." They include the title track, "Text Book," and "Wildflower Wildfire." All three songs seem to merge the worlds of "COCC" with "Norman Fucking Rockwell," specifically Lana's mouthful of a track "Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me To Have But I Have It." They also seem uncharacteristically more confessional than most of Lana's catalog to date, specifically "Wildflower Wildfire," which alludes to a conflict with her mother. She even starts the track with "Here's the deal," readying to show more of her backstory than she ever has in her decade-plus-long career. The three songs are gorgeous - especially "Text Book," which has a haunting quality to it (she mentions "Black Lives Matter" i

Tusse releases French Language Version of "Voices"

In case you missed Eurovision this past weekend - and if you're an American, you likely did - there were some truly talented acts among those competing for this year's prestigious title. There were some pretty boring acts, and there were only a few of truly strange contestants this time around (bummer).  Sweden's act Tusse was pretty talented; his joyful and uplifting track "Voices" was actually one of the few that seemed rather memorable to me. Turns out he's releasing it in French - which makes sense, as Tusse is Kongo-Kinshasa born. Tusse is enormously popular in Sweden from what I can tell, having won both Melodifestivalen (Sweden's precursor to Eurovision) and Swedish Idol. He's a talented guy, and I'm sure we're just seeing the start of what is bound to be a long and prolific career.   (you might not be able to watch this outside of Sweden so, see below) The French version of "Voices" is available for streaming here .  Also, whi

"Round the Bend" - Zoon (Beck cover)

My favorite album of Beck's has long been "Sea Change," for approximately the 20 or so years it's been out. I would probably regard it as one of my personal favorite records, for its wistfulness and its beauty. When I heard about Zoon (aka Zoongide’ewin) - the musical project of Daniel Monkman - covering the "Sea Change" track "Round the Bend," I was somewhat skeptical simply because the album holds such a place in my heart. Now, prior to hearing about this cover, I wasn't so familiar with the work of Zoon. And now, I've got to say, in my best Owen Wilson - Wow.  Apparently we both hold the 2003 Beck album in high esteem. Said Daniel about "Sea Change," "After my first listen I was so moved and at the time I was going through a pretty bad break up and this album helped me process my depression. Throughout my time away from music I’d always have a copy beside me; it kept inspiring me that I could try any kind of music style. I