Perhaps The National will never be the stars they deserve to be.

It may have something to do with their knack for subverting listeners' expectations while simultaneously producing music that could only come from them.

I Am Easy To Find is their eighth studio album, the follow-up to 2017's Sleep Well Beast (which won the Grammy for Best Alternative Album). And it is a strange beast indeed. Clocking in at over an hour, with 16 tracks, it's their longest album. The best male voice in rock, Matt Berninger, is complemented by multiple female guest singers, and even, at stages, a choir. Plus the whole shebang includes a companion short film by director Mike Mills.

The new album.
The new album.

Every new National album takes some time to absorb, but every new National album proves worthy of the effort, and this is no exception.

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Its two best tracks are perhaps the opening and closing numbers, the singles You Had Your Soul With You, an upbeat romp featuring Bowie offsider Gail Ann Dorsey on guest vocals, and Light Years, a piano-led ballad a la Exile Vilify, with typically heartbreaking Berninger lyrics.

Of course there's a risk with 16 tracks of overdoing it, but The National manage to avoid a bloated mess by mixing it up and bringing in the guest singers, and by doing what they do best - Berninger's baritone, and evocative lyrics (and those of his wife Carin Besser), the Dessner twins' inventive arrangements and Bryan Devendorf's always excellent drumwork alongside brother Scott's bass, with the percussion particularly impressive on the album's fourth single (and longtime fan favourite) Rylan.

I Am Easy To Find is a lot to take in, but you should. It's an achievement.

Rating: 5/5 stars