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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

‘Laugh Track’ is a sweet surprise for fans

Via Wikimedia Commons
The Nationals lead singer, Matt Berninger, performs with soul.

Indie lovers favorite long-standing alt-rock band, The National, surprised fans with a new album drop “Laugh Track,” just five months after their recent album “First Two Pages of Frankenstein.”

The late September drop came as a shock to fans as there was no pre-release announcement. Based on the similarity between the two recent album covers, “Laugh Track” seems to be the second part of the much left-to-be-desired “Frankenstein.”

Though “Frankenstein,” which was the band’s first release in four years, brought fans beloved tracks like “The Alcott,” featuring pop-darling Taylor Swift, and features from beloved sad-indie royalty Sufjan Stevens and Phoebe Bridgers, the April release fell flat for some fans

I have to agree that though “Frankenstein” stayed true to the band’s signature melancholy sound with a light and airy twist, it wasn’t all that amazing or different from their eight previous albums. After being together for over 20 years, fans would hope the band could still keep things interesting.

If fans take the 10th album, “Laugh Track,”  at face value, one can still argue it has the same sound as its predecessors. But, if fans take the time to really dive into it, they’ll come to truly appreciate the surprise release.

Where “Frankenstein” fell flat, its second part picked it up and ran with it. Bringing a studded lineup of featured artists, including Bridgers, who was also featured on the April release, the band gets brutally honest.

Though a few songs discernibly fell short for me — looking at you “Alphabet City” and “Tour Manager” — The National largely saved the best for last in their two-part plan. Not only did all three featured songs make their way onto my list of favorites, but “Coat on a Hook” and “Space Invader” managed to invade a space in my heart as well.

“Laugh Track” stays true to the band’s typical themes of angst and feeling lost, yet the moody blend works. I appreciate the fun beats thrown in with the angst, as seen in “Weird Goodbyes (feat. Bon Iver),” which has already racked up an impressive 20 million plays on Spotify in less than two weeks. The beloved track, filled with Bon Iver’s signature genre-blending beats, has a sweet harmony with haunting lyrics.

The title track of the album shines as it digs at the deep feeling of unsureness, doubt and falling apart. 

Bridgers’ beautiful chords shine in the chorus of the song as it blends beautifully with the lead singer, Matt Berninger’s, vocals. I enjoy the way it pokes fun at the raw feeling of despair through its lyrics: “turn on the laugh track / we’ll see if it changes the scene, maybe this is just the funniest version of us that we’ve ever been.” Bridgers has a solo rendition of the chorus just before the end of the number that allows fans to truly appreciate her voice, much more than her features in the previous album.

Last but certainly not least, the album’s third collaboration, “Crumble,” features music legend Johnny Cash’s eldest daughter, Rosanne Cash. Cash makes her father proud by adding a charming sound to the sad song. With the singer’s country twinge, true angst trudges out in this track about falling apart at the words of a lover.

We can’t wrap up without at least talking about one of the great solo songs from the release, and the beguiling ballad “Space Invader” is no exception. The atmospheric number about not being able to get “what ifs” out of your head packs an emotional punch as it swirls around the listener’s head.

Berninger’s way of packing such intense emotion into his vocal performance is a signature of the band — a quality that shines in this track. The seven-minute song brings listeners an orchestral solo in its second half that allows us to appreciate the rest of the band as much as its lead.

What I most enjoy about The National is that the band has their own take that goes beyond the typical alternative/indie sound, similar to how Alt-j has put its own spin on the genres. Whether it’s your first listen or you’re a long-time fan, the surprise release “Laugh Track” surpasses expectations, marking its territory as the perfect angsty autumn listen. 

“Laugh Track” is available for streaming on all music platforms.

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About the Contributor
Abby O'Connor
Abby O'Connor, Arts & Entertainment Editor | she/her
Abby is a senior majoring in print/web journalism and minoring in english. When she's not writing for the Journal, you can find her sipping a cup of coffee either reading or playing video games. She also enjoys spending time with her dog and going on hikes. Music and arts is her passion and she hopes to find a job writing about what she loves. Follow Abby on X @astreabbs

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