FIRST LISTEN: Sleep Well Beast
September 7, 2017 at 10:34 pm #15789
Thoughts/feelings/opinions/facts?September 8, 2017 at 9:46 pm #15799
Awake for daysParticipant
1. That it’s a shame more people aren’t in here getting excited
2. Walk it Back is a least as good as I’d hoped from the live shows. Only grumble is some of the little noises immediately prior to the spoken word.
3. Empire Line sounds like a train – from what I understand reading around, that was the intended metaphor, but I’m still blown away by how much detail there is underneath that creates that impression, without being at all cheesy.
4. Empire Line into I’ll Still Destroy You into Guilty Party leaves me an emotional mess, even more so than 6-9 on Trouble Will Find Me.
5. Production is on point – so much detail there.
All in all, giving Boxer a run for its money.September 8, 2017 at 9:59 pm #15800
It’s very very strange how quiet it is here.
Makes it easier for me, in the past I’d wake up hourly to remove links to leaks!
September 9, 2017 at 5:57 pm #15804
- This reply was modified 8 months, 2 weeks ago by LogicalHarm.
It’s certainly was worth the wait, as with all of their releases it’ll probably get better with each listen!September 10, 2017 at 9:00 am #15808
Very much enjoying it. My 16 year old heard it on Spotify before my vinyl arrived (!) ….she reckoned it’s The National’s Moon Shaped Pool and I can see where she is coming from – they are now at a point where they can do practically what they want and are obviously having fun experimenting. Still very much TN but “enhanced”. Love Walk it Back very much, something of the rawness of the early days and demos about this. Many layers to sift through and ponder on.
Looking forward to seeing what others thing.
And, yeah, it’s strangely quiet on here regarding this?September 10, 2017 at 2:25 pm #15809
The new is fantastic. A lot to digest. To me, the music sounds a lot more emotional than the last two albums. I adored High Violet and Trouble but there was the new album seems “warmer” and more than Boxer in that regards. It sounds like a more produced version of Boxer in some ways. Lyrically, the new album comes across as almost a concept album perhaps about a main character battling something … perhaps some internal demon … to find peace and love and a higher power in a world full of pain and suffering. I have a tip my hat to the band having released a five great album in a row which is something few bands have ever done.September 11, 2017 at 10:03 pm #15817
I’m enjoying it a lot as a true first listen – didn’t follow any live performances since I was preoccupied with stuff.
Empire Line through Dark Side are my favorites – for now. Some pure beauty there. I’ll Destroy You got stuck in my head all weekend.
To my ears Turtleneck doesn’t belong on this record. I’m also ambivalent on the amount of electronic “experimentation”. Some songs sound overwrought with bells (literally) and whistles which fight with Matt’s voice or the melody and sound tacked on instead of truly organic. Like Chanel said, take one thing off before going out.September 12, 2017 at 2:59 am #15821
Quick observation is that the song “Sleep Well Beast” starts with the same drum track as the song “Guilty Party”. Does anyone know why?
Is the song “Sleep Well Beast” some sort of continuation of the song “Guilty Party”?
September 12, 2017 at 4:31 am #15823
- This reply was modified 8 months, 2 weeks ago by Heavenfaced.
I haven’t had the time to sit down and enjoy it from start to finish, sadly. Work has been kicking my ass, I got impatient and started listening to it while driving but stopped. I need to be relaxed and in a different zone.September 12, 2017 at 12:05 pm #15825
I’m also ambivalent on the amount of electronic “experimentation”. Some songs sound overwrought with bells (literally) and whistles which fight with Matt’s voice or the melody and sound tacked on instead of truly organic. Like Chanel said, take one thing off before going out.
I’ll agree with this. There’s some of the electronic experimentation I really like, but some of it really jars. The spoken word clip in ‘Walk It Back’ made me cringe the first time I heard it.
I agree with you guys there is a rawness and emotional element to it, to the point where some of it hurts me to listen to at the moment. I think I’ll give it another spin in a week or so, ready for the London gig. I feel like there’s still a lot of levels to uncover and explore here but I’m not strong enough for it at the moment.
September 13, 2017 at 8:27 pm #15834
- This reply was modified 8 months, 1 week ago by Karin.
Walk It Back is my favorite so far.
Empire Line gets better with every listen.September 14, 2017 at 3:19 pm #15839
I think I like it better than the previous two. Some of the textures and sonic experimentation are really interesting, and the band seems to have perfected writing piano/guitar riffs that get under my skin. It doesn’t move me in the way Boxer or Alligator did (and still do), but I can’t really hold that against them. I think my connection with those albums is as much a consequence of where I was in my life/musical development at the time as it was of the music itself. It’s become harder for me to lose myself in the music the way I did, without looking at it analytically and picking it apart.
So to submit to those shameful instincts, here is me picking it apart:
1) I agree with folks here who say it feels a bit overproduced at times. They seem to have taken the kitchen sink approach to production, which partly pays off, but partly just mires the songs in swamps of sounds, which at worst kind of dilutes some of their essence. Some of my favourite TN songs are the most pared down they’ve written. They clearly know how to write great riffs, hooks and melodies, so why pile so much stuff on top?
2) Some of the lyrics feel like old-style Matt, but I’m still missing the sort of emotional gutpunch some of the earlier lyrics packed for me. Maybe that’s because Matt’s at a different stage in his life, and writing about male white-collar anxiety gets old (which happens to be precisely what I relate to the most, for mysterious reasons). But I also feel like he’s gotten increasingly vague, abstract, and quite often downright weird at times. I don’t mind weird when it’s done well (pissin’ in the sink I think, or the feathery woman carrying the blindfolded man through the trees), but recently I can’t make heads or tails of many of the lyrics, and the weird bits tend to lack the wonderfully strange imagery of Ye Olde National. Maybe I’m just dense, iunno.
3) I also feel like I’m missing their two fifth Beatles. As much as I respect and appreciate the contributions of Kyle Resnick and Ben Lanz, who are fantastic musicians in their own right, Padma Newsome just brought something to the band which I’ve been craving for. His violin complemented their sound so nicely, and he seemed to be equally capable of handling stately, quiet songs and in-your-face rock climaxes. The second fifth Beatle would be Peter Katis. Again, I respect that the guys want to handle all production work internally and Aaron is continually improving, but Katis seemed to exert a noteable influence on their sound, which has been missing since High Violet (imo tbh). Also, Bryan has never sounded better than on Boxer/Alligator. And clearly Bryan is the best National. I just watched the Pitchfork live set last night, and the drums/general mix on some songs actually sounded clearer than they do on the album, which I think is bizarre (and casually attribute to the absence of their second fifth Beatle in the studio).
4) More Bryan, please. Could we get Bryan to write the next album? No offense, other guys.
5) What the hell is Turtleneck? After three listens I still have no clue what to make of that song. At best it feels out of place. I genuinely believe TN has never written a bad song. But at worst, they may have broken that streak with this one. They sound like The National attempting to immitate some other unidentified band. I feel like the whole thing might be an ironic joke, like TN making fun of what a rock band is supposed to sound like. If this is to be their new Mr. November, I can do naught but shed a single nostalgic tear for the screams of times past.
Anyway, that all probably sounds very negative while I’m actually really enjoying this album a lot. I’m just being harsh because I hold TN to unrealistically high standards, because they’re my favourite band. And such is the plight of favourite bands: they are either worshipped indiscriminately or spat out when they don’t deliver exactly on the incredibly vague idea I have in my head of what they’re supposed to sound like. Sorry, The National. I promise I’ll listen to this album until I am grey at the temples, and awkwardly sing its melodies to my daughters-to-be, thereby delivering on the real promise of Dad Rock.
September 15, 2017 at 4:03 am #15842
- This reply was modified 8 months, 1 week ago by Razzmatazz.
I very much agree with Razzmatazz, after listening different times to the album, I feel it is one I will go back to more often than I do with the previous two, but for the reasons he mentions I won´t develop the emotional connection I have with Boxer and Alligator. Time will tell. I also concur that sound experimentation goes too far sometimes: to me it almost ruins the song I think it´s the best together with Guilty Party, I´ll Still Destroy is a deluge of sound effects that I find a bit annoying and makes miss The Lights.
The album has this very nice flow until Born To Beg, which is somewhat flat, but not bad, and then hits Turtleneck which has no business in this collection of songs, and could have happily gone to live to the same limbo as Rylan (which I wasn’t a fan for, but at least a decent song). Then there’s this wonderful sequence of songs only marred by Dark Side of The Gym, that although it makes me laugh every time I hear the line about castrati in the trees, I find it cheesy and with an earworm quality that I don´t enjoy.
I have to agree with the comments about the lyrics as well, Matt seems more focused lyrically in this album and there are some personal emotional lines that grab me , but there are also some images I have heard him using before and lines that are plain odd or vague.September 17, 2017 at 3:36 pm #15875
I’ve listened to Sleep Well Beast four times–twice from beginning to end on the car audio system during a 1,200 mile drive, and twice from beginning to end on vinyl on a spectacular system in my living room. I like it a lot so far and am looking forward to dozens of more listens on the run up to the show in Forest Hills.
As with Razzmatazz and another innocent, Alligator and Boxer are my favorites, and I like High Violet and TWFM very much. However, I do not agree that Sleep Well Beast is overproduced. Clearly, there is much more going on in SWB, but I like it enough initially to give it much more space in my brain and ears as I get more used to it. Moreover, I respect that the band is evolving and experimenting and give them credit for that; I’m willing to follow!
Other points, thoughts, observations: 1) I cannot wait to hear/witness/experience The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness live–I think it will be incredible. 2) There are several other songs on SWB that I think will be absolutely awesome in concert as well (such as Day I Die). I can’t wait to hear them played in person. 3) I’ll keep listening to Walk it Back until I figure out all the background dialogue! I’m very intrigued by it. 4) I love Turtleneck! C’mon guys! It’s totally cool, very fun to listen to, and will tear up the place live. (For what it’s worth, it supposedly was written in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s electoral victory.) 5) I’m so glad not to still be waiting for an elaborate, interlocking box–now that was overproduced!September 17, 2017 at 4:03 pm #15876
Addendum to above: I think I like SWB on first few listens more than I liked HV or TWFM on first few listens…and the white vinyl on SWB seems to be cleaner and/or higher quality than the vinyl on HV or TWFM were.
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