The National – Sleep Well Beast (2LP white vinyl)
The National, traditionally, have been at their best when they sound like they’re either playing on a mountaintop or blearily muddling through a song in a small, slightly-disintegrating south-Brooklyn apartment, as if trying not to disturb the neighbors. These contrasts were once starkly, powerfully delineated: “Daughters of the Soho Riots” versus “Abel,” “Racing Like a Pro” versus “Mistaken for Strangers.” But Sleep Well Beast, the band’s new album, is created by a version of themselves that sounds both increasingly world-weary and stunningly refreshed. It begins and ends in hallways with glasses of gin–scenes suited to the more claustrophobic side of the band’s musical inclinations. Instead of accidentally devolving into self-parody, The National, once scrappy underdogs, ended up with a strong candidate for the most inventive big-budget rock album of the year.
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