I Am Easy to Find
The relationship between The National's album I Am Easy to Find and director Mike Mills' short film of the same name is symbiotic: hearing new songs the band was working on inspired Mills to create a film — a condensed life of one woman — which in turn inspired more songs from The National, which became a 68-minute album that dovetails with a 24-minute film. Mills produced the album, acting primarily as a disrupter to habits the band has developed over the course of nearly two decades.
The National has excelled at churning, slow-build anthems that often examine, and sometimes mock, male anxieties and privilege, and I Am Easy to Find still digs deep into questions of identity. But these songs are full of women's voices that contrast Matt Berninger's mellifluous baritone: Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan, This is the Kit's Kate Stables, and several others join in duets or contribute prominent backing vocals. The songs tend to be quieter and more patient and spacious, often with fewer guitars and drums but with no less tension, beauty or complexity. It's an inspired reinvention from this restless, artful band.
Hot tracks: all
— STEVE KLINGE
The Philadelphia Inquirer
A-Carly Rae Jepsen
Carly Rae Jepsen clearly doesn't have any trouble with follow-ups.
She followed her omnipresent smash single "Call Me Maybe" with one of the most critically adored albums of the decade, 2015's Emotion, which combined raw, personal lyrics with sleek, '80s-styled synth pop even better than Taylor Swift did. So what does Jepsen do next? She delivers another stunning album — this time, less about "Boy Problems" and more about healing from heartbreak enough to fall in love again.
Dedicated shows Jepsen is an artistic daredevil. Sure, there's her funky reworking of "He Needs Me" (the Olive Oyl song from the Popeye movie) for "Everything He Needs," which she co-wrote with Merrick native CJ Baran, who also worked on Emotion.
"Want You in My Room," which Jepsen co-wrote with Jack Antonoff, sounds like she is going to bust out some Siouxsie & The Banshees as she declares, "I'm like a lighthouse, I'm a reminder of where ya going." But then, she is seemingly overwhelmed with the giddiness of new love and is surrounded by weird, synthesized voices and floating sax solos. The ska-tinged opening of "I'll Be Your Girl" is another treat. And even the irresistible pop of "Now That I Found You," currently inescapable as part of the new Target ad campaign, carries her theme forward.
Jepsen occupies an interesting corner of the pop landscape. She brings a risk-taking, dramatic element to crowd-pleasing dance numbers like "Too Much," maybe the best on an album with plenty of standouts to create a sensibility that is distinctively hers.
Her mix of earnestness and vulnerability makes the closing dance anthem "Real Love" work, creating a more radio-friendly cousin to Robyn's powerful Honey from last year. And just like Honey, Jepsen's Dedicated is destined for numerous best-of lists this year.
Hot tracks: "Now That I Found You," "Want You in My Room," "Too Much"
— GLENN GAMBOA
• DJ Khaled featuring Nipsey Hussle and John Legend, "Higher." The first posthumous music from Nipsey Hussle comes on this single from DJ Khaled's new album, Father of Asahd. It's thick with the luxuriance of Rick Ross' glory era and crammed full with gospel overtones for good measure. In his trademark conversational style, Nipsey tells the story of the many generations of his family tree — arriving from Africa, miscarriages, being a son, becoming a parent.
— JON CARAMANICA
The New York Times
• Lana Del Rey, "Doin' Time." Oh, how deeply the ironies — racial, sexual, temporal — nest in "Doin' Time." It's Lana Del Rey's version of a 1990s song by Sublime — the California band that did a West Coast slacker version of Jamaican reggae — that was based on "Summertime," from Porgy and Bess, the Gershwin opera composed for an all-black cast. "Doin' Time" is also a guy's complaint about a straying girlfriend. Del Rey's remake has an echoey, nostalgic undertow, a crisply unhurried hip-hop beat and a choir of ghostly backup Del Reys; she keeps the original genders as she sings about the "evil" girlfriend. The line she digs out of the lyrics was thrown away when Sublime's Bradley Nowell sang it, but she seizes on it: "We gonna run to the party and dance to the rhythm/It gets harder."
— JON PARELES
The New York Times
• Slipknot, "Unsainted." It has been five years since the last Slipknot album, and the band is neither closer nor farther away from the center of the rock music conversation. It has been, and remains, a wildly popular cult act, still performing on terms it set more than two decades ago. "Unsainted" — the lead single from a new album, We Are Not Your Kind, which will be released in August — is a pleasant annihilation, juxtaposing soaring vocals about traumatic things against ferocious heavy-metal rapping, dexterous drumming alongside quirky turntable work and guttural guitars. "I didn't come this far to sink so low," Corey Taylor sings over and over again, bracingly. Did someone say rock is back?
— JON CARAMANICA
The New York Times
Weekend on 05/30/2019
Print Headline: The National's Easy to Find inspired reinvention