AS a man who famously worked in advertising before deciding to become a rock star in his 30s, Matt Berninger is acutely aware of how to construct imagery.
For the past 20 years his band The National have created anthemic folk and art-rock, culminating in an overdue Grammy award for 2017's Sleep Well Beast.
Amazingly Serpentine Prison is Berninger's debut solo record, despite the prolific 49-year-old having also released an album with indie supergroup EL VY in 2015.
The plan for Serpentine Prison was initially to record a covers album with the help of famed producer Booker T. Jones. But inspiration took hold and Berninger felt compelled to record a late-night singer-songwriter album in the vein of Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave.
It's an album of a middle-aged man, weighed down by regret, yearning, and most importantly, an understanding of his foibles.
On All For Nothing Berninger sings, "Go on float away, don't try to orbit me/ They say it's hard to live here/ No one comes around, I got no gravity/ The weather's unforgiving.
"The brooding waltz of Love So Little hints at the world outside. In perhaps a summation of the politically-polarised America under Trump, he croons, "With your pulled-on hair and your punched-up lips/ And your city-mouse voice," before he reaches the chorus of, "It's only god or the devil when you're in it/ And I'm always getting caught in the middle."
The sombre mood does threaten to burst out in a slice of triumphalism on the Americana-tinged One More Second through a tinkle of piano and boom of drums.