The National are a band that I only listen to when I feel like life is piling up, even if I don’t necessarily recognise it at the time. It usually requires some distance from the problem at hand to see that you even had a problem. So it is now as I listen back to Sleep Well Beast some six months on from playing it near constantly, where I can only listen to this and decipher details and depth whereas at the time I was only really focussed on the gloomy texture of the music.
Despite its inevitably maudlin overtones – you wouldn’t want a National album to be any other way, after all – Sleep Well Beast is an accomplished album that takes the band’s framework and fleshes it out, much more so that ever before, with electronics and clever processing. I like to attribute some of this newfound, widescreen expansiveness to the work of members Scott and Bryan Devendorf’s separate work in LNZNDRF, whose self-titled album was among my favourites of last year.
These are songs that carry a particularly transcendent quality, having a considered, introspective quality that makes for a perfect soundtrack to a world wrecked by disbelief and despair, where there is beauty and levity if only you care to look for it. Consequently, they are perhaps the best songs this band have ever written.
Listen to Sleep Well Beast here.
(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence