Music Monday: ‘First Two Pages of Frankenstein’ by The National

The First Two Pages of Frankenstein album cover featuring a kid holding a mannequin head.
©The National under 4AD Ltd.

When it comes to revered bands like The National, we all have albums and songs that we claim as our own. “You Were A Kindness,” and High Violet are mine. I almost always inadvertently compare every album to High Violet, but at the same time, there’s never been an album that I’ve disliked or felt nonchalant about. First Two Pages of Frankenstein comes pretty close, which is the type of album worth waiting for.

First Two Pages of Frankenstein feels like a carefully nuanced album with something for everybody. The National write sadness with a specificity that’s often hard to describe. The profoundly innate longing that laces each of their tracks is almost addictive in its healing impact. Music doesn’t always make sense. Saying “England” got me through my worst sinus infection makes no sense. Saying I’m pretty convinced “Send For Me” is written for my upcoming novel doesn’t make sense, but that’s largely where the beauty in appreciating this band comes from.

Since the single release of “Weird Goodbye” featuring Bon Iver, it was clear that The National’s upcoming album but one brimming with all sorts of emotions and relatable questions. And while the song isn’t in the First Two Pages of Frankenstein, it’s still worth noting. The album instead features official tracks with Sufjan Stevens, Phoebe Bridgers, and Taylor Swift—all of which are melancholy bops almost tailor-made for the best kind of fan videos and late-night drives on a particularly bad day. 

The album is a nostalgic reflection in a way The National accomplishes best by presenting listeners with relatable stories. The first notes in “Once Upon A Poolside” (featuring Sufjan Stevens) alone take us all back to a time we might not want to revisit, but it works exceptionally to establish the tone. There’s colossal love woven into every word and melody, making the entire album a no-skip treasure. It’s about the questions we ask ourselves, the emotions we wrestle with, and the doubts we carry. This decision is primarily why beginning with a song like this and ending with “Send For Me” works brilliantly to establish the muddy but incredibly comforting grounds we’re all trying to walk on.

First Two Pages of Frankenstein encompass chapters and books that are comforting and raw. The innate human emotions bursting through the sadness feel dazzling instead of drowning. This sadness isn’t one we’re all willing to unload, look deeper into, and try to understand better. It’s the kind of album made specifically for all the best fan videos (like for Bridgerton’s Kate Sharma and Anthony BridgertonShadow and Bone’s Kaz Brekker and Inej Ghafa). 

Listen to The National’s First Two Pages of Frankenstein below, and let us know which tracks are your favorites.
Writer’s Note: On Monday, September 18, The National released a surprise album, Laugh Track, and it’s everything.

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