The National have indeed evermore-ed their folklore with their newest surprise album, Laugh Track. Full of emotionally compelling lyrics that continue to leave me speechless and maybe (definitely) crying on my couch for a few hours, it’s hard to believe frontman Matt Berninger ever had writer’s block. Partly because, in my experience, I usually come out of one it thinking what I’m writing is gibberish, but mostly because I’m astounded by the fact that ten records later, they’re still creating songs that are impossible to get sick of. (I bring it up every time, but I spent a whole month dealing with a terrible sinus infection, and the only song I could play was “England.” And no, I’m still not tired of it. Thank you for asking.)
The First Two Pages of Frankenstein was already sensational; heck, I called it the next best thing since High Violet, but Laugh Track finally puts “Weird Goodbye” ft. Bon Iver on an album, and now I feel compelled to say that this is the best one. But really, I shouldn’t have to pick through twins, do I? Because the albums function so devastatingly well together that choosing would be an abomination.
The thing about The National is that as depressing and gut-wrenchingly relatable as their music is, it’s also wildly funny. And Laugh Track fully embraces what makes the band so incredible, bringing raw transparency to the lyrics and melodies. Something about this album feels more intimate—like the worn-in favorite pair of boots you reach for after trying on everything else. It’s comfortable, even while it feels new and fresh. It’s the best kind of deep end, the good kind of drowning, and from beginning to end, the lyrics weave themselves into a gorgeously cohesive tapestry that’s both messy and organized. The juxtapositions add to the greatness.
Other than Bon Iver, the album also features Phoebe Bridgers and Rosanne Cash in two emotionally evocative songs that will undoubtedly remain on replay. The best part of Laugh Track by The National is that it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite off the track because there’s something profoundly relatable in all of them. Still, the sheer simplicity in the titular track’s lyrics will haunt me for the rest of the year. “Losing my momentum, losing my mind / Not enough to mention, not enough time / I can’t even say what it’s about / All I am is shreds of doubt.” Aren’t we all just shreds of doubt these days, pushing forward, trying to make ends meet while still producing content that we care about in order to feel a little less alone with our feelings?
The album feels impossible to describe because the emotions within are the words we’re all likely trying to come up with. There’s a reason the band’s been a comfort for so many years: we’re still trying to figure it all out right alongside them. The melodramatic streams of consciousness that take us through weeds and winding forests never really end—we keep asking the same questions, fumbling about what we’re doing and whether we’re making the right calls. And in the midst of that, we try to find people who understand.
All this is a long way of saying that The National’s Laugh Track is a stellar, brilliantly captivating album that showcases human complexities in their most inexplicable forms. It’s a haunting, beautifully rewarding collection of songs tailor-made for every season of life.
Listen to The National’s Laugh Track below and let us know which tracks are your favorites.
Album Cover Credit: ©The National 4AD Ltd.