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Review: Sleep Well Beasts

by Kristina Livingston- Executive Editor
Tue, Sep 19th 2017 06:00 pm
Photo courtesy of Instagram
Photo courtesy of Instagram

Seclude yourself in a cabin in the Hudson Valley forest, refurbish the inside to become a recording studio and make an album for three years with your best friends of 26 years: this was the formula for “Sleep Well Beast,” the newest and seventh installment in the discography of indie rock’s The National. 

Mysteriously changing band aesthetics with the release of their first single and music video back in May, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” set the tone for a 12-track set of melancholy, classic polished The National recordings. 

Kicking off quietly with the somber “Nobody Else Will be There,” frontman Matt Berninger presents a beautifully relaxing ballad in which he pleas with whom I have to assume is a significant other, urging them to meet and easing their mind that they will be alone. 

Much of the album centers around a narrative of two people who are struggling to get back onto the same page, a special kind of heartbreak. The band excels at accompanying themselves with slick guitar riffs and powerful piano chords. 

With “Day I Die,” my personal favorite off the record, Berninger addresses music and drugs as being personal outlets for coping with a failing relationship. “I get a little punchy with the vodka just like my great-uncle, Valentine Jester did / But he had to deal with those people like you who made no goddamn common sense,” Berninger sings. 

Asking over and over, he wonders, “Where will we both be on the day that we die?” as if he is seeking an insight into his own downfall. 

As it has been four years since the band’s last release, I was extremely curious as to what the product of what a woodsy retreat would be. 

The album concludes with the titular track, “Sleep Well Beast.” It includes countless elements that appeared throughout the previous tracks. It serves as a perfect send-off until the next installment of the soundtrack to somber nights arrives. 

The National, a group focused on sound evolution and the retention of quality, have become one of the few artists I am familiar with who do so both successfully. “Sleep Well Beast” seems like it has been a part of your library for eternity because of the ease with which it washes over you. 

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