Sleep Well Beast, the seventh album from The National. From the sombre piano chords of Nobody Else Will Be There, with a weary, hollowed-out Matt Berninger sighing: “You said we’re not so tied together / What did you mean?” it’s clear this is an album about separation, although Berninger has stated it’s not autobiographical.
Strings peek into the mix as the opener builds gently to a crescendo that never arrives. A stirring example of The National as masters of restraint, it would have been entirely at home on Trouble Will Find Me. A thundering tom rhythm from the ever-innovative Bryan Devendorf ushers in Day I Die and a typically wry Berninger line: “Let’s get high enough to see our problems”. It also introduces the first of several lacerating guitar riffs from the Dessner twins.
Indeed, the album, scattered with electronic loops, is at turns both the band’s most and least guitar-centric. The Crazy Horse-like solo on first single The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness tears through the heart of a song built for stadiums.