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“Demons” is our first taste from indie-rockers the National’s forthcoming album, Trouble Will Find Me, and it aspires to the lugubriousness of Leonard Cohen and the textural grandeur of INXS, but it has a drive all its own that could have probably carried the song without the mirrored-image album-cover sketch of its debut video. Thanks to crackly, slow-mo gallop guitars the song is paced perfectly to show off frontman Matt Berninger’s croaks and sighs about going through an awkward phase and being secretly in love with his past. The chorus, “I stay down with my demons,” sounds surprisingly upbeat considering the lyrics are essentially saying Berninger (or most-likely his character) is a self-suffering coward and proud of it. More interesting, though, are the layers of horns, orchestral strings, and echoey “How Soon Is Now?” guitars that support everything. Plus, the fact that the National has composed an uplifting bridge for the song — and Berninger seems to want change in his life and “see the sun come up above New York” — and that it clocks in around three-and-a-half minutes makes the song work without letting its morose leanings become a wallowing meditation. Short and not so sweet, Berninger’s “Demons” don’t seem so bad.
Trouble Will Find Me arrives May 21 via 4AD.