The National have weaved their way in and around a reputation for slow ballads and heavy atmospheric meanderings. The indie band has spent the past few years moving beyond their devout group of fans and managed to pervade culture as a whole. Though known for channeling the nostalgia of times past, their latest release, Sleep Well Beast, is cleverly modern. Matt Berninger’s poetic repetitions and baritone soulfulness is still present, but behind him are new electric guitar riffs, and a fresh sense of electronic, well, charge. “Day I Die” is a prime example. Morbid lyrics and catchy, bouncing melodies make this a National track with the rare ability to soak in at first listen. It’s a new brand of juxtapositional pop, born from The National’s pre-established brand of melancholic pseudo-folk.
The clip brings anxiety to the forefront, using strobe lights and stylized images of the band to convey the idea of being misplaced, or more specifically, of being in too many places at once. “The day I die, where will we be?” Berninger laments, and you can feel the chaos as the video rockets forward and the shapes blur, only to slow down when the song ends and the band leaves the stage. There is a lovely tie-in to impermanence here, and this lingers as the sketched figures disappear from frame.
Sleep Well Beast was released on September 8th through 4AD. The National are currently on tour, and you can find their list of tour dates here. You can also find the band on their website, and follow them on Twitter for more updates and news.