This isn't the first time that The National has announced a new album, or even a new film, but the project they unwrapped on Tuesday is so intertwined and pioneering that it requires a closer look. It all starts with their first new music since 2017's Sleep Well Beast.
"You Had Your Soul with You" starts with the hallmarks of a song from The National. The hypnotic, luring vocals of Matt Berninger over a skipping drumline, swelling strings that build alongside the spirit inside his voice. But as it all reaches an apex, emerging from the crashed chords is the voice of a woman.
It's Gail Ann Dorsey. The longtime member of David Bowie's band takes the lead and the spotlight as the song speeds towards the conclusion. It's a hand off of power unseen in songs from The National, but it's an effort that is very much at the center of their next chapter.
The song is the first listen from their upcoming eighth studio album, I Am Easy to Find. It will be released on May 17th beside the film, I Am Easy to Find. "The former is not the video for the latter; the latter is not the soundtrack to the former" the band explains in a release. The film is directed by Mike Mills, who was given an open door to the band's creative process, working with them on both the film and the album. Together each share with each other, yet are not companion pieces in any real respect.
"They share music and words and DNA and impulses and a vision about what it means to be human in 2019, but don’t necessarily need one another" it continues. "The movie was composed like a piece of music; the music was assembled like a film, by a film director."
Mills was let in to navigate both projects with the band, creating two unique pieces of art that are distinct but remarkably tied together through the work of The National. The film stars Tomb Raider and Ex Machina star Alicia Vikander, with a trailer coming along with the release of the song.
In addition to relinquishing control to another creative mind, Berninger has also ceded ground at the band's frontman. His unmistakable voice is set aside for others like Dorsey, adding a completely different texture and focus for the band. Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan, and Kate Stables of the band This Is the Kit all pick up the lead throughout the project, sharing space that was otherwise once unavailable.
“Yes, there are a lot of women singing on this, but it wasn't because, ‘Oh, let's have more women's voices,’ explains Berninger in the project's announcement. “It was more, ‘Let's have more of a fabric of people's identities.’ It would have been better to have had other male singers, but my ego wouldn't let that happen.”
I Am Easy to Find is the followup to their GRAMMY Award winning album Sleep Well Beast, and is available on May 17th. You can pre-order here.