The venues where The National will be performing this year will indicate It can't get any bigger. But fortunately the quintet around chief laconic Matt Berninger does not proceed musically according to the sheer principle of growth. On the contrary, more intimate songs like the nightly "Fireproof" predominate on the sixth album of the Brooklyn troupe. Drum rhythms scurrying and fine acoustic guitar pickings, Berninger despairs of love: "You're fireproof/nothing breaks your heart." It's also more hymnal where we have to deal with masters of dynamics at The National. For example, the band's typical, slowly swelling "Don't Swallow The Cap", in which a vocal verse performed at low speed is counteracted by Bryan Devendorf's athletic drums and elegant chamber music strings expand the picture. But even in arena-ready moments the New Yorkers beware of fat, predictable arrangements. They prefer to layer details: solo strings, harmonica, clarinet, a female second voice. The size is here fascinating in the detail.
Toptrack: Don't Swallow The Cap