The National – First Two Pages of Frankenstein

The National stay true to their roots, a testament to quality rather than redundancy.

Label: 4AD
Released: 28th April 2023

There’s a certain warmth that emanates from familiarity. Much like returning from an arduous day at work or a lengthy journey away, it’s a quality that seamlessly transposes itself onto The National.

A band that has forged a legacy by crafting music reminiscent of a fine red wine savoured beside a roaring fire, in 2023, almost inadvertently, they find themselves at the epicentre of a vast segment of popular culture. Providing solace for 6 Music dads and serving as an inspiration for some of the world’s biggest pop names, there’s more to The National than Aaron Dessner’s recent high-profile production ventures. Still, there’s a new light shed on ‘First Two Pages Of Frankenstein’ because of them, potentially introducing The National to an entirely new audience.

Especially when that results in an exchange program that has your actual Taylor Swift contributing a feature. Sharing the spotlight with Phoebe Bridgers and Sufjan Stevens, these guest appearances could have threatened The National’s meticulously constructed equilibrium, yet they never do. ‘The Alcott’ might be the first track listeners gravitate towards, driven by sheer curiosity, but – as ever – Swift expertly matches the occasion, her vocals harmoniously contrasting Matt Berninger’s smouldering drawl, dispelling any notions of gimmicky casting.

Throughout the album, The National stay true to their roots, a testament to quality rather than redundancy. If the resonant warmth and sweeping grandeur of their music haven’t captivated before, it’s doubtful they ever will, but that’s a you thing, not their problem. Tracks like the lush ‘Eucalyptus’ and the energetically charged ‘Tropic Morning News’ rank among their finest. From the shimmering guitar of ‘Ice Machines’ to the languid haze enveloping closing track ‘Send For Me,’ each moment feels consistently genuine and polished. In the end, the warmth of familiarity emanating from The National’s music continues to envelop listeners like a comforting embrace, proving that sometimes, it’s the tried and true that endures.

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