is it easy to keep so quiet?
May 17, 2019 7:32 AM   Subscribe

The National have released their 8th studio album, I Am Easy To Find. (spotify) The album is accompanied by, and provides the soundtrack for, a 26 minute short film of the same name directed by Mike Mills and starring Alicia Vikander, which depicts the life of a woman. (CW: textual mentions of abuse)

I Am Easy To Find represents a significant change for The National, as lead vocalist Matt Berninger shares singing duties with a diverse mix of women including Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan, Mina Tindle, Kate Stables, Melissa Laveaux, Diane Sorel, and Eve Owen. The Brooklyn Youth Chorus also contribute their talent. The debut single You Had Your Soul With You (along with 5 other tracks) features longtime David Bowie bassist Gail Ann Dorsey. Berninger's wife Carin Besser continues to write lyrics and music for the album as well, as she has done since 2007.

In keeping with other music videos from The National, the track Hairpin Turns has a sparse music video featuring choreography and dancing by Sharon Eyal.

The video for Light Years features footage from the film.

You Had Your Soul With You live on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

The National previously 1, 2
posted by lazaruslong (15 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Personal note: the short film (direct YT link for those that like the inline player) exchanges dialogue almost entirely for the musical soundtrack and is shot in black and white. There's nothing graphic in it, and it has moments of beauty and happiness. For me, it was also heavy and packed an emotional punch - just want to say that so folks can make an informed choice about if / when to watch it.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:35 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

I almost gave up on the short film, but thought the 2nd half was a lot more engaging than the first. It gave me heavy Terrance Malick worship vibes.
posted by youthenrage at 10:10 AM on May 17

I have this (completely irrational) feeling that The National are so finely calibrated to attract listeners in my demographic that the only way I can maintain a shred of self-respect is by refusing to listen to them.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:48 AM on May 17 [7 favorites]

They've always been a band that's aged like fine wine to my ears. I couldn't stand them in college, but now...earworms abound.
posted by Dillionaire at 11:07 AM on May 17

I've been in the bag for them since 2008, so I've got no objectivity here. But the song "Not In Kansas" has me in actual tears. The juxtaposition between the uncommonly self-revealing lyric of the verses and the tri-part female harmony on the chorus (apparently a fragment of a song by Thinking Fellers Local Union 282, who are new to me) moves me more than I can say.

And Gail Ann Dorsey's voice is ... it's just beyond. Something about the timbre is like clear, deep water, if that makes any sense. I saw her perform at a Planned Parenthood benefit last December where The National also played. I wasn't the only person there overwhelmed by her; it's apparently the night the band asked her to collaborate.

Pitchfork has a song-by-song piece on the album, and (of all places) Gothamist interviewed bassist Scott Devendorf on the unusual process behind the album.
posted by minervous at 11:26 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

This quote from Mike Mills in the Pitchfork piece would have made a great title for the post: "It might be Lemonade for depressed white people."
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 12:14 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]

And Gail Ann Dorsey's voice is ... it's just beyond. Something about the timbre is like clear, deep water, if that makes any sense. I saw her perform at a Planned Parenthood benefit last December where The National also played. I wasn't the only person there overwhelmed by her; it's apparently the night the band asked her to collaborate.

Could not agree more...I had no idea that her voice was so powerful. Just floored me the first time, and every time since.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:28 PM on May 17

I love The National. They play my brain like it is their instrument.
posted by srboisvert at 12:54 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

Nice post. Indiewire had a good article on this collaboration with interviews as well. Big fan of Mike Mills who did one of my favourite videos ever: "All I Need" by Air.
posted by Petersondub at 1:40 PM on May 17

I saw the National last year when they were in town, right in the middle of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, around when it started to look like the fucker was going to get confirmed despite the many brave, brave women laying it on the line. It was an intense time for a lot of women, including me. And to the band's credit, the lead singer talked about politics a bunch, including Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey Ford by name. So I'll never forget what it was like to sing along with the crowd to Fake Empire -- I started crying, and half the people around me were, too. All the women definitely were.

I haven't seen the album/listened to it yet, but based on what Berninger said that night, and how angry he was about Kavanaugh's misogyny in particular, it feels of a piece that their next album is a sustained collaboration with women artists about womanhood.

Thanks for posting this.
posted by joyceanmachine at 2:11 PM on May 17 [5 favorites]

Yes. When I saw them right before the midterms, Matt was also vocally political to the Philly audience. When someone (a vocal minority) booed, he said “you know what band you came to see tonight, right?”

I dunno. I knew that they were active politically, and that he and Carin were not just contributors but driving forces behind the 7 inches for planned parenthood project, but this feels to me like another step towards the fight. Based on that stuff and some of the lyrics in Sleep Well Beast, it seems like they are choosing to have their art grapple with the ongoing omnishambles by focusing on women. And I like that.

I also found myself connecting so hard with moments of childhood and growing up and middle age on the film, despite my gender. And in the moments that were specific to the experience of women and the experience of people past middle age, I just found myself watching and feeling and thinking. A lot of semantic content packed into economy of words, e.g. “she thinks about the body language of men”.

I’m grateful for that.

YMMV, they are my fav band and my musical hyperfocus since 2013, etc.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:05 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

Hah, yeah, and upon close listening and reading the lyrics to Not In Kansas, the political nature is not at all subtle.

My mother needs an army
But I'm leaving home and I'm scared that I won't
Have the balls to punch a Nazi
Father, what is wrong with me?

posted by lazaruslong at 4:08 PM on May 17

Not In Kansas is a gut punch of a song

If the sadness of life makes you tired
And the failures of man make you sigh
You can look to the time soon arriving
When this noble experiment
Winds down and calls it a day

posted by JDHarper at 6:12 PM on May 17 [4 favorites]

I'm always happy to listen to new stuff from The National, but by God, who approved the wardrobe for that dancer in the video?! Was it laundry day? Hideous shorts and makeup detract from a decent performance.

Completely unrelated but The National once played a show in Toronto and, on the day, Matt came to me to purchase some records. I told him I liked his music a lot and he denied being himself, which I thought weird but said, "whatever," mentally. Maybe he's just a doppeltganger -- but the next day he appeared in the papers wearing the same shirt he wore when shopping with me. So weird.
posted by dobbs at 6:36 PM on May 17

i hear ya, but i don't think anyone puts sharon eyal in anything she doesn't wanna be in.

one might almost ask one's self during the performance

"what are we going through?"
posted by lazaruslong at 6:57 PM on May 17

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