The National’s songs usually feel warmly hermetic – from their artfully enveloping art-goth sonics to the way Matt Berninger’s merlot-gorged baritone turns midlife malaise into a lush cocoon. Which makes their forthcoming new album I Am Easy to Find, due in May, an interesting change-up. The band is joined by several guest vocalists, all women, opening up their songs to a new sense of emotional dialogue that makes for some of the most enjoyable music they’ve ever made.
“You Had Your Soul With You,” features Gail Ann Dorsey, best known for her work with David Bowie during his later years. Berninger does his self-emptying, romantically ass-out thing as the band unfurls an expectedly perfectionist balance of ornately scrambled sonics and warmly surging alt-rock. “I had only one last feather left / I wore it on the island of my head,” he sings, (And I mean, come on, who can’t relate to that feeling?). Then Dorsey floats in midway through, singing “you have no idea how hard I died when you left,” providing the deus ex machina of a friend who shows up with a drink when you’ve left a party to brood alone on the back steps. It’s kind of a system-shock to hear someone sharing Berninger’s hurt in a National song. It makes it feel more believable, tempering stately gloom with a tender glimmer of communion.