In the three years since the release of ‘Boxer’, The National have indisputably become an arena-sized band, their commercial successes now commensurate with their critical acclaim. Are they now writing music with the aim of justifying that status? Opener ‘I Should Live In Salt’ is a typical National slow-burner, one that never quite catches alight, but smoulders to a simmering close. The single ‘Demons’ is torch carrying, downbeat lyrics hidden in cathartic chords, while ‘This Is The Last Time’ ends in a swirl of strings and sadness. To listen to this record is to be swept into a shimmering, monochrome world; a world of chiming, exquisitely painful beauty. Yet in places you get the uncomfortable feeling that the band are now writing to a formula, with echoes of previous songs resonating a little too loudly. The album is consistently very good and the song writing consistently better, but that moment of soul-shifting emotion, that moment the National have been so adept at creating, is missing.

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