Home Read Albums Of The Week: The National | First Two Pages Of Frankenstein

Albums Of The Week: The National | First Two Pages Of Frankenstein

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:The National’s ninth studio album, First Two Pages Of Frankenstein, is anchored by evocative melodies and an enthralling lyrical narrative, signaling a new chapter in the band’s beloved discography. The 11-song album was produced by The National at Long Pond Studios in upstate New York and features guest appearances by Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers and Sufjan Stevens.

After two back-to-back albums and busy years of touring, First Two Pages Of Frankenstein was initially stalled while lead singer Matt Berninger navigated, “a very dark spot where I couldn’t come up with lyrics or melodies at all… Even though we’d always been anxious whenever we were working on a record, this was the first time it ever felt like maybe things really had come to an end.” Instead, The National “managed to come back together and approach everything from a different angle, and because of that we arrived at what feels like a new era for the band,” according to guitarist/pianist Bryce Dessner, whose bandmates also include his brother Aaron (guitar, piano, bass) as well as brothers Scott Devendorf (bass, guitar) and Bryan Devendorf (drums).

First Two Pages Of Frankenstein channels the group’s revitalized chemistry into a body of work that beautifully balances elegant musicality with more idiosyncratic impulses. Tracks such as Grease In Your Hair and Ice Machines were road-tested in 2022 before they were recorded, allowing the band to hone the material in real time (another song, Weird Goodbyes featuring Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, was released as a standalone track last August).

“To me the power of this record has to do with the intentionality and structure of the music meeting with a lot of accidental magic,” says Aaron Dessner.

The LP’s first single was the deceptively upbeat Tropic Morning News. Partly recorded live in Hamburg, the song merges its mercurial textures and kinetic rhythms with a lush, yet subtle grandeur achieved through Bryce Dessner’s work with the London Contemporary Orchestra. “When Matt came in with that song in the depths of his depression, it felt like a turning point for us,” says Aaron Dessner. “It’s almost Dylanesque in its lyrics and it’s so much fun to play; everything suddenly felt like it was coming alive again.”

Co-written with Berninger’s wife Carin Besser, Tropic Morning News takes its title from a phrase Besser invented to describe the regrettably routine practice of doom-scrolling. “The idea of referring to the darkness of the news in such a light way unlocked something in me,” says Berninger. “It became a song about having a hard time expressing yourself, and trying to connect with someone when the noise of the world is drowning out any potential for conversation.”

Formed in New York in 1999, The National’s last four albums have all been in the Top 5 in the U.K. charts, with 2017’s Grammy-winning (for Best Alternative Album) Sleep Well Beast hitting No. 1. In the U.S., The National have scored five top 10 albums on the Billboard 200.”