Sleep Well Beast The National 4AD After almost 20 years together and a successful career at the forefront of modern rock, Ohio five-piece the National has composed its most cohesive offering to date. Its seventh album, Sleep Well Beast, weaves together a myriad raw soundscapes and experimental lyricism to paint a complex portrait of midlife anxiety. While each track stands alone impressively, the narrative across the 12 tunes is a compelling reflection on mortality and the fragility of relationships. This is an album on which band members Matt Berninger, Aaron and Bryce Dessner, and Bryan and Scott Devendorf step beyond the previously defined scope of what their band is meant to sound like. The band employs far more electronic elements than before across the album and jazzy brass overtones turn up on the title track. Walk It Back and I’ll Still Destroy You highlight this new direction, harbouring oscillating electronic embellishments and distorted speech. Turtleneck and Day I Die are two of the more intensely up-tempo tracks that still evoke the overall vibe of nostalgia, anger and sadness. Carin at the Liquor Store sounds like a song being sung by a lonely inebriate at a bar piano, and sparse rustling opens the album on Nobody Else will be There, before delightfully emotive piano and aching vocals from Berninger take over. The album ends fittingly with a host of wind instruments and strings on the title track. Sleep Well Beast was recorded in a purpose-built studio in a pastoral area of upstate New York, with the quiet melancholy of the physical setting inevitably seeping through, and its isolation adding to the album’s coherence. Australians will get a chance to hear the album live when the National tours here in February. member of synth-pop group Van She, and years spent living in Los Angeles. Here, dancefloor jams such as monster single Lay Down, with its key line and vocal hook, sit easily alongside more laidback fare such as Lose It All, whose warm, bubbly bassline blends with percussive kick and vocals. It’s equal parts delicate, dreamy and danceable. First single No Other High, with its pop vibe, and Electric Fields’s energetic vocal scream summer and are destined for big things, while Two Walls is beautiful, escapist fare, as Di Francesco’s hurried beats contrast with soothing effects and the vocal of Brisbane up-and-comer Tori Zietsch. The Mystery of Cats is a slow jam, melding chugging beats and bumpy synths, while Comfortable features the funk sensibilities of LA producer Harriet Brown. Epic closer Putting On Airs benefits from the pipes of Bronx singer Wills. It’s a fitting, triumphant end to an album that proves worth the wait.