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Less fury at the dying of the light and more eye-rolling at a life partner, as the National tackle middle age with a novelist’s sense of atmosphere
Over the decades, artists have made concept albums about everything from the state of Michigan to the life of Gaudí to the Ravenskill Rebel Militia’s revolt against the rule of Emperor Nafaryus of the dystopian Great Northern Empire of the Americas in 2285 (US prog-metal band Dream Theater’s 2016 quadruple album The Astonishing, if you’ve got two hours and 10 minutes to spare). But few artists have alighted on a topic quite as tricky as that which drives the National’s seventh studio album. Virtually every song on Sleep Well Beast concerns itself with the bleak minutiae of middle age: feelings of regret, relationships becoming careworn and – especially – unignorable cracks appearing in a marriage.