The announcement of a new album by The National can sometimes feel like a lesser holiday, because you've come to know what to expect: Matt Berninger's whiskey-soaked baritone, a pristinely-arranged instrumental. But, dang it, if "You Had Your Soul With You" — the band's latest offering and its first new material since 2017's Sleep Well Beast — isn't just about the loveliest thing, continuing to hone The National's tried-and-true ways into new modes of drama. It's the lead single from I Am Easy To Find, due out May 17 on 4AD.
As if to resist expectation, "You Had Your Soul With You" starts with an electro-glitch feint before returning to reliable form. Still, that undercurrent of turmoil seethes on — paralleling the quarrel between two partners in tired, quiet war with one another. "I had only one thing to do / And I couldn't do it yet," Berninger shrugs.
Another twist: A featured vocalist, Gail Ann Dorsey, duets with Berniger, her voice weary and longing, as if this fight has happened one too many times for the narrator to want to keep going. "You have no idea how hard I died when you left," she sings, before Berninger returns to duet his refrain of failure.
And lastly, another subversion (or perhaps a meta look at itself): The National has announced a short film inspired by the record, a black-and-white affair starring Alicia Vikander and directed by Mike Mills. It looks to find the drama in the everyday, chronicling a woman's life in 24 minutes, the sort of thing that The National sings about and has soundtracked many times before.
I Am Easy To Find is due out May 17 on 4AD.