The National: Sleep Well Beast

- When bands have been around for a long time, they can grow repetitive, failing to produce anything as good or interesting as their earlier material. Thankfully, this is not the case with The National. With their seventh album Sleep Well Beast, The National have made an ambitious work, different to anything they’ve done before and it’s downright brilliant. Incorporating electronic elements of twitching beats and pulsating synths, Sleep Well Beast is well — a different beast, while still incorporating the ear-popping highs and decompression lows they have built their stellar career on.

The lyrics are prudently crafted. With the aid of his writer-wife, Carin Besser, singer Matt Berninger populates the album with provocative lyrics. Common themes and words traverse the album, with copious references to weed, wine, sleep, and insomnia. Equal parts playful and deadly serious, lyrics from Turtleneck such as, “There’s something about her eyes / I think her roots are rotten / this must be the reason she wears her hair up in knots” are highlights typical of Berninger. Vocally, Berninger is famous for his baritone, akin to Leonard Cohen or Nick Cave, but there is more variety here than on any other National album, with striking harmonies and detailed soundscapes bolstering his delivery.

Musically, the band covers foreign territory. While The National have incorporated electronic elements in the past, Sleep Well Beast is a dive into the deep end. Walk It Back and title track Sleep Well Beast are experimental with the former incorporating tandem abstract monologues and the latter incorporating an array of strange noises barring only the kitchen sink. If The National are the American Radiohead, as they are commonly referred to, then this is their Kid A, with tracks such as Walk It Back and I’ll Destroy You dissimilar to anything the band has done before. Still, there are moments where the band leans on their great penchant for rock, like the melancholic anthem Day I Die and foot stomper Turtleneck.

Achieving success like few indie rock bands do, The National deserve all the praise that comes their way. At a time in their career where they could rest on their laurels, The National stepped up their game, created their new meticulously crafted album. On Sleep Well Beast you will hear songs that will pump up your tires and songs that will deflate them. It’s a testament to their greatness that they can make you feel everything across an album while creating something artistic that is completely new.

- Jonathan Cloumassis.


Album Details

Album Title: Sleep Well Beast
Artist: The National
Record Label: (4AD / Remote Control)