by Kiera Gower
The National’s ninth album First Two Pages of Frankenstein was released April 28. What makes this album unique is that it was recorded all across the United States and Europe. This is an example of how music could thrive even in an ever changing world with quarantines and lockdowns.
The album opens with "Once Upon A Poolside." This track features Sufjan Stevens on the chorus. The song covers the topic of anxiety, and if these worries will ultimately lead to the end of their happiness. As the song builds, so does the piano, which seems coherent with the idea of anxieties getting more intense over time. I believe this song speaks for a lot of us with the concern that just because something is good, means that it is not going to last forever. We are just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
These themes of uneasiness and apprehension are prevalent throughout the album. The verses of "Eucalyptus" consist of what if questions: “What if we moved back to New York? / What about the moon drop light?”
Another feature on this album is on track 4, "This Isn’t Helping," featuring Phoebe Bridgers. Her backing vocals make the song even more beautifully haunting. The lyrics are what it feels like inside your own mind when you’re having one of those days where you feel utterly distraught. The bridge is my favorite part of the song because of the way the vocals layer with each other and the guitar.
"Tropic Morning News" was the first track I heard off of this album and is my favorite track. It deals with not really knowing what the right thing to say is, and being so completely stuck in your own head that you come off as rude due to the stress of it all.
"The Alcott" features Taylor Swift and tells the story of two people who used to be in a relationship meeting up for the first time in a while to talk about their past. The bridge acts as a conversation between the two exes:
You tell me your problems
(Have I become one of your problems?)
And I tell you the truth
(Could it be easy this once?)
It's the last thing you wanted
(Everything that's mine is a landmine)
This song is another one of my favorites because it feels like such a real depiction of relationships. There is not really a definite start and definite end to them.
Phoebe Bridgers returns on track 10, "Your Mind Is Not Your Friend." I feel that this song encapsulates the entire album well. Fighting your own mind is hard and the lyrics portray the struggle between listening to your own thoughts and not believing them:
Don't you understand?
Your mind is not your friend again
It takes you by the hand
And leaves you nowhere
The closing track "Send for Me" ends the album on a more positive note, citing unconditional love and always being there for someone no matter what. It is truly a perfect way to close the album.
The National will be touring this summer and fall, find their tour dates here.