If literary gothic were a subgenre of music, then the National would be its poster band. Low, brooding vocals mixed with smart, slyly wink-wink lyrics and brilliant, pitch perfect guitars, pianos, horns, and even a theremin or two create worlds within worlds on their tracks. There’s a payoff to listening through to the end of a National song too -- like a good story, most change direction midstream and finish big.
Sleep Well Beast is no earth-shaker like their earlier High Violet and Boxer albums, but it certainly ranks high on my playlists for the year. Be sure to check out: “Carin at the liquor store,” “Day I die,” and “The system only dreams in total darkness.”
Laura (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)