Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Record of the Month

I figured I'd do a monthly 'what I'm listening to' kind of thing. This could be viewed as a lame placeholder kind of post. And probably it is. But it's my blog! So there! 

If I'm being honest, the title, First Two Pages of Frankenstein - the new album by the National  - might be the most interesting thing about their new release.  And it pains me to say it. 

I'd say "I'm a big fan of the band", but the last 2-3 albums have been in decline. And that decline was getting more pronounced until Frankenstein

It's not that it is bad. Objectively, it isn't. It is just repetitive in rhythm, style and sound. All that said, repeated listens have made it a little better,  The phrase that keeps coming back to me for the most part is:  "music for a resting pulse".  

But how bad can a disk be that mentions both New Order and the Afghan Whigs in separate songs? 

Oddly, the most interesting song on here, might not be on here. Their collaboration with Bon Iver last year (presumably from these recording sessions) might be better than anything on Frankenstein

This disk definitely has its moments.  The first release, "Tropic Morning News" is pleasant enough. 

The most original item is a collaboration with Taylor Swift, with "the Alcott".  I won't say it's a centerpiece, but the vocal arrangements are the most interesting on the entire disk. Almost all of them being Swift. After a while the band is purely secondary. 

The National has this triangle going on: bandmate Aaron Dessner has produced two of Swift's critical successful albums. One of those songs includes Bon Iver.  Bov Iver is part of Dessner's side project, Big Red Machine, in which Swift also appears on a song. And then of course, the aforementioned National / Bon Iver song. One begins to wonder if they can even function without each other at this point. 

I will say this:  Phoebe Bridgers - why? And on two songs? The word "milquetoast" comes to mind. Her vocals are not special or distinctive. I said it when she appeared on a Killers album: she must know where the bodies are buried. Other than that, I cannot account for her here....or anywhere. 

The band has its moments. I like "Grease in Your Hair" which has a semi-familiar vibe, but at least they pick up the beat a bit, once their into their song. But more often than not, it's a slow moving song like "Once Upon a Poolside", "Send to Me" and "Ice Machines".  "This Isn't Working" (which is an aptly named subtitle for this disk), has shades of songs from High Violet

Yes, there is a familiarity with this disk, but it doesn't really speak to me they way some of their disks have in the past. It's there! 

Allegedly, they recorded 20+ songs for this disk and whittled it down to 11. Kind of makes you wonder if what they left off was better than this - or worse. 

Frankenstein doesn't really leave me wanting more - it's leaves me wanting something! 

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