Thursday, February 29, 2024

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!  

I kind of semi-called back in May when the National released First Two Pages of Frankenstein. They had mentioned recording over two dozen songs and I lamented that maybe what they left off was better than the disk they released. And it kind of is. 

Actually, Laugh Track was released back in September 2023, but I'm just getting around to the review now.  Yes, two albums in less than five months. 

While mostly recorded around the same time, Laugh Track isn't solely produced by the band, there are others who put their $0.02 into this product and I think it helped. 

Don't get me wrong, while this disk is better than Frankenstein and even their last two records, it doesn't meet the expectations of their first four albums. But that's more on me than them. 

Frankenstein relied heavily on programmed drums, but that's not the case here. And their drummer is actually the base for their sound. The disk is also heavily piano driven. That's fine here and there, but show a little restraint. 

There are highlights for sure:  "Weird Goodbyes" which I featured on My Music Monday maybe two years ago has finally found a home, as opposed one-off single that most people missed. Bon Iver does well sharing vocals with Matt Berrninger. 

"Deep End (Paul's in Pieces)" is probably the most accessible track. It is actually better when heard live. "Coat on a Hook" is the low-key, but familiar National that we've come to know.  And in their last few disks where they are BIG on female guest vocalists, I'm not sure they do better than Rosanne Cash collaborating on "Crumble".  Her voice works well with Berninger, especially in the last section of the song. 

And whether you like it or not, "Smoke Detector" is at least ambitious. Clocking in at almost eight minutes and recorded live at a sound check. It's part manic, part stream of consciousness, all very sonic. They get points for originality. 

Some songs I come back to more than others. It's a decent disk. I'm glad I've stuck with them. 

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