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The National

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For more than two decades, The National have offered up songs that mine immense beauty from damage and pain, a direct reflection of their shared belief in music’s capacity to catalyze transcendence. “As a band we’ve always talked about how we only want to make records if we feel like we’re still learning something about ourselves and each other, and if the music itself shines some sort of light in the darkness,” notes lead singer Matt Berninger. While that sense of devotion has led to extraordinary success—including winning a GRAMMY Awards® for Best Alternative Music Album (for 2017’s Sleep Well Beast), headlining festivals around the world, and working with countless culture-defining artists across all media—the Ohio-bred band found themselves faced with a creative crisis in the writing of their ninth studio album. “I was in a very dark spot where I couldn’t come up with lyrics or melodies at all, and that period lasted for over a year,” Berninger recalls. “Even though we’d always been anxious and argued quite a lot whenever we were working on a record, this was the first time it ever felt like maybe things really had come to an end.” The band decided not to worry so much about the record and instead focused their attention on their friendship and transforming the longstanding tensions within their musical partnership, consciously treating each other with a new level of grace—a shift that indelibly informed the making of their new album, First Two Pages of Frankenstein. “At some point there was a feeling of all of us leaning into each other in a new way that ultimately allowed everyone to do what they do best,” says guitarist/pianist/bassist Aaron Dessner, whose bandmates also include his brother Bryce Dessner (guitar, piano, orchestration) as well as brothers Scott Devendorf (bass, guitar) and Bryan Devendorf (drums). “Instead of fighting, we were caring for each other and for the songs, almost like you’d care for your family,” Bryce adds. “We managed to come back together and approach everything from a different angle, and because of that we arrived at what feels like a new place.”

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