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Next Up for The National: New Album, Debut Madison Square Garden Show

'First Two Pages of Frankenstein' features guest spots from Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers, and Sufjan Stevens
Photo: Josh Goleman

After its members spent the past several years working on other projects, including Aaron Dessner producing Taylor Swift‘s chart-topping folklore and evermore albums, the National has reassembled for its ninth full-length, First Two Pages of Frankenstein. Swift herself appears on the 11-track album alongside Phoebe Bridgers and Sufjan Stevens; first single “Tropic Morning News” is out today (Jan. 18).


The band concedes that work on First Two Pages of Frankenstein, due April 24 from 4AD, was initially hampered while vocalist Matt Berninger worked through a bad case of writer’s block. “[I was in] a very dark spot where I couldn’t come up with lyrics or melodies at all,” Berninger says. “Even though we’d always been anxious whenever we were working on a record, this was the first time it ever felt like maybe things really had come to an end.”

Road-testing and refining the new material in front of audiences last year helped the National turn the proverbial corner, with parts of the drum machine-propelled “Tropic Morning News” having been recorded live in Hamburg. “When Matt came in with that song in the depths of his depression, it felt like a turning point for us,” Aaron Dessner says. “It’s almost Dylan-esque in its lyrics and it’s so much fun to play. Everything suddenly felt like it was coming alive again.”

Swift sings on “The Alcott,” one of the songs yet to be performed live. Bridgers can be heard on “This Isn’t Helping” and “Your Mind Is Not Your Friend,” while longtime friend and the Dessner brothers’ former Brooklyn neighbor Stevens guests on album opener “Once Upon a Poolside.” “To me the power of this record has to do with the intentionality and structure of the music meeting with a lot of accidental magic,” Aaron Dessner says.

Other songs that will be familiar to fans include “Ice Machines,” which boasts beautiful guitar interplay from Aaron and his twin brother Bryce; the classic up-tempo National tune “Grease in Your Hair”; and the simmering piano ballad “This Isn’t Helping.” “Weird Goodbyes” was also debuted live last year but has already been released as a non-album standalone single featuring Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon.

The National will support First Two Pages of Frankenstein with North American and European touring legs, beginning May 20-21 in Chicago. The itinerary is highlighted by the band’s first headlining show at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Aug. 18, with support from Patti Smith and Her Band. Soccer Mommy, the Beths, and Bartees Strange will support on other dates, tickets for which go on sale Jan. 27.

Here is the track list for First Two Pages of Frankenstein:

“Once Upon a Poolside” (featuring Sufjan Stevens)
“New Order T-Shirt”
“This Isn’t Helping” (featuring Phoebe Bridgers)
“Tropic Morning News”
“The Alcott” (featuring Taylor Swift)
“Grease in Your Hair”
“Ice Machines”
“Your Mind Is Not Your Friend” (feauring Phoebe Bridgers)
“Send for Me”

Here are the National’s tour dates:

May 20-21: Chicago (Auditorium Theatre)
May 24: Washington, D.C. (the Anthem)
May 26: Boston (Boston Calling Festival)
May 28: Napa, Calif. (Bottlerock Festival)
May 30: Los Angeles (Greek Theatre)
June 2-3: Troutdale, Ore. (McMenamins Edgefield)
June 4: Redmond, Wash. (Marymoor Park)
June 5: Burnaby, B.C. (Festival Lawn at Deer Lake Park)
Aug. 1: Philadelphia (the Met)
Aug. 3: New Haven, Ct. (Westville Music Bowl)
Aug. 7: Detroit (the Fillmore)
Aug. 8: Madison, Wisc. (the Sylvee)
Aug. 9: Minneapolis (the Armory)
Aug. 11: Denver (Misson Ballroom)
Aug. 15: Nashville (Ascend Amphitheater)
Aug. 16: Atlanta (Chastain Park)
Aug. 18: New York (Madison Square Garden / with Patti Smith and Her Band)
Sept. 21: Dublin (3 Arena)
Sept. 23: Leeds, England (First Direct Arena)
Sept. 24: Glasgow (OVO Hydro Arena)
Sept. 26: London (Alexandra Palace)
Sept. 29: Amsterdam (Ziggo Dome)
Sept. 30: Berlin (Max-Schmeling-Halle)
Oct. 1: Munich, Germany (Zenith)
Oct. 4: Madrid (WiZink CenteR)
Oct. 5: Porto, Portugal (Super Bock Arena)
Oct. 6: Lisbon (Campo Pequeno)