The National Drop Second Surprise Album, Featuring Rosanne Cash, Bon Iver and More

The National released their surprise second album of 2023, Laugh Track, which the band unveiled during their hometown concert in Cincinnati, Ohio on Friday (September 15). The 12-track Laugh Track is a companion to The National’s April 2023 release, First Two Pages of Frankenstein, and features material recorded during the same sessions, along with special guests Rosanne Cash, Bon Iver, and Phoebe Bridgers.

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“‘Laugh Track’ is the band’s most freewheeling, all-hands-on-deck album in years,” reads a descriptor of the album. “If ‘Frankenstein’ represented a rebuilding of trust between group members after 20-plus years together, the vibrant, exploratory ‘Laugh Track’ is both the product of that faith and a new statement of intent.”

Bon Iver first appears on the track “Weird Goodbyes,” which was released as a standalone track in 2022. “It felt like the story had already been told,” said Aaron Dessner of the song in a statement. “It was its own thing, but it also felt related to what we were doing. That was part of the logic for making another record — let’s give ‘Weird Goodbyes’ its own home.”

Bridgers joins the band on the title track, while Cash makes an appearance on their penultimate “Crumble.”

Thematically, there’s no division between Frankenstein and Laugh Track. The album continues on from where the Frankenstein closer, “Send for Me,” left off and offers the other side to the story of the songs on the previous album. “Let’s just turn everything off and walk away,” said singer Matt Berninger in a statement. “Bail out of your head, of all the things you’re worried about, your career, your whole identity, how strong you thought you were.” 

No characters are mentioned by name on Laugh Track—just the first person “I” and second person “you”—with the exception of a tour manager named Alice. The album ends on an eight-minute closing track “Smoke Detector,” which Berninger likens to a lament for the album. “It felt like the epitaph,” he said. “Burn it all down at the end.”

Though “Smoke Detector” was recorded during a soundcheck in Vancouver, British Columbia in June, the album was predominantly recorded at Tucker Martine’s studio Flora Recording & Playback in Portland, Oregon. Martine also co-produced the album along with the band, John Leventhal, and Tony Berg.

Laugh Track is the big rock album The National has always wanted to make, said Dessner.

“It’s not because we don’t enjoy sitting in a room banging around ideas,” said Dessner. “It’s just that it wasn’t that productive, so we developed a fairly elaborate way of building songs in which [drummer] Bryan [Devendorf] had a very important but compartmentalized role. This time we had the desire to make something that was more alive so that Bryan’s playing would drive more.”

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Upon its release, First Two Pages of Frankenstein debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Rock and Alternative Album charts.

The National are set to kick off their European tour on September 21 in Dublin, Ireland. The band has added on additional U.S. dates for fall 2023, in addition to a series of shows in Australia in spring 2024, along with Fleet Foxes.

Calling all fans of The National! Get ready for an unforgettable experience as the National announces their UK and European 2024 tour dates. Secure your tickets now!

Laugh Track Track List:

  1. “Alphabet City”
  2. “Deep End (Paul’s in Pieces)”
  3. “Weird Goodbyes” (feat. Bon Iver)
  4. “Turn Off the House”
  5. “Dreaming”
  6. “Laugh Track” (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)
  7. “Space Invader”
  8. “Hornets”
  9. “Coat on a Hook” 
  10. “Tour Manager”
  11. “Crumble” (feat. Rosanne Cash)
  12. “Smoke Detector”

Photo: Graham MacIndoe / Courtesy of Grandstand Media

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