National, The - First Two Pages of Frankenstein

Regular price $ 29.99

Differences between albums by the National can be measured by minute degrees, each marking a distance from the group's melancholic center. First Two Pages of Frankenstein, the 2023 record that marks the band's first proper album since 2017's Sleep Well Beast -- not to mention the first they've released since Aaron Dessner became a collaborator of Taylor Swift's -- lies among the National albums that provide a glimmer of reassurance, the sense of consolation arriving not through catharsis but meditation. While stillness is a constant within the National, as they enter middle age, they seem to have less patience for varying tempo or volume, so First Two Pages of Frankenstein appears to be painted in gradations of grey; it's not monochromatic, but from a certain perspective it can appear homogenous. Even supporting vocals from Sufjan Stevens and Phoebe Bridgers, who cameos twice, don't command attention, marking a distinct break from I Am Easy to Find, where guest vocals provided a focal point. Here, the National sound relatively streamlined, concentrating on their collective subdued drama. Naturally, Matt Berninger's murmured musings are placed at the forefront, yet the band follow his every pause and sigh, giving the music the impression of riding a wave; things surge forward, then recede. Melodies aren't absent, but they're not forceful, they're sung as suggestions. Forward movement is achieved through shifts in texture and feel, momentum created through layers of harmony and weaving acoustic instruments through electronic beddings. Nothing here sounds precisely new -- this is the aesthetic that gelled around the time of High Violet, yet the skill in the craft is married to a brightness in outlook that lets First Two Pages of Frankenstein operate on two parallel paths: it can serve as moody atmosphere or reward close listening.

Red Vinyl

1 Once Upon a Poolside 3:36
     feat. Sufjan Stevens
2 Eucalyptus 4:24
3 New Order T-Shirt 4:56
4 This Isn't Helping 4:04
     feat. Phoebe Bridgers
5 Tropic Morning News 5:09
6 Alien 4:07
7 The Alcott 4:27
     feat. Taylor Swift
8 Grease in Your Hair 3:57
9 Ice Machines 4:16
10 Your Mind Is Not Your Friend 4:24
     feat. Phoebe Bridgers
11 Send for Me 4:14