The National brought its unique brand of mellow, alternative rock back to the music scene on Sept. 8 with the release of its seventh record, “Sleep Well Beast.”
Formed in 1999 in Cincinnati, the band has consistently released killer indie tracks such as “I Need My Girl” and “About Today.” This created high expectations for “Sleep Well Beast.” Although The National didn’t blow fans away with this record, with a total of 12 tracks, it certainly continued its history of releasing quality music.
Contrasting The National’s past two album covers, which were mainly white, and brighter, “Sleep Well Beast” features a gray-black image of a house with a lit room of individuals in the lower right hand corner. Since The National’s “Trouble Will Find Me,” it’s been a four-year-wait for the release of the band’s seventh full-length record.
“Sleep Well Beast” opens with the track “Nobody Else Will Be There,” which brings The National’s dark, moody piano to the forefront. The haunting melody feels as if it’s leading you down the eerie, gray-stone road of “Sleep Well Beast.” The lyrics begin to tell the story of a conversation Matt Berninger, the lead singer, will have with a lover.
The fourth track on the record, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness,” was The National’s first single released from the new album. The song has a building beat with hints of a guitar riff that explodes into a solo halfway through the song. The lyrics are poetic and metaphor-driven, as one can see from the title. In an interview with Pitchfork , Berninger described the title to have “slipped past the editor.” The song is a metaphor for the way things work and grow from dark times into better ones.
The National switches up its usual melancholy feel with a dreamy, fluid tune toward the end of the record. Berninger sings on “Dark Side of the Gym,” “I’m gonna keep you in love with me, for a while” creating a love song that makes you feel warm, as opposed to the typical sound and feeling the band provokes. Usually, songs are brooding and deep, but Berninger occasionally finds room for more gentle love ballads. The track has a similar tempo and melody to the more mellow, slower tunes Canadian indie-pop band, Stars, released in the past.
The National experiments with different sounds on “Sleep Well Beast,” giving fans an idea of the group’s range while still keeping the record’s overall spirit. Berninger makes it difficult for listeners to not entirely drink his voice in on the band’s songs. Berninger’s rugged and rich voice fills all corners of the beat and drives the majority of the tracks. The songs are honest and down-to-earth. “Sleep Well Beast” rings between listeners’ ears and resonates feelings of nostalgia, relationship struggles and getting through it all—which all fans can relate to.