New Music Reviews

The National ft. Bon Iver’s Weird Goodbyes: Grief, Ambiguity and the Fragility of Life

The last time we heard from The National was Aaron Dessner producing Taylor Swift’s folklore and Evermore, while Matt Beringer guested on the best duet of the year with Swift on Coney Island. In fact, Taylor Swift was one of the times we heard from Justin Vernon on Exile. Now these two Taylor Swift besties have come together on their own track Weird Goodbyes.

Like much of The National’s work, Weird Goodbyes has a dark and foreboding tone. However, this sees Dessner and the crew leaning more into electro pop with a drum machine and bass behind the mix. The arrangement mainly centres of keyboard and some hints of strings in the background, which are both instrumental hallmarks of The National and Bon Iver. In fact, the electro side of the track may be an inspiration from Bon Iver as Vernon goes more and more into digital landscapes in his band’s work. Having said all of that, this is a more restrained arrangement compared to tracks like Bloodbuzz Ohio or Rylan.

Lyrically the song both relies on common themes from The National’s work and introduces some ambiguity. Matt sings about moving forward, while also reminiscing about the bath and the air in an attempt to savour every second of life. Then he regrets not trying harder in life and goodbyes to loved ones “Your coat’s in my car, I guess you forgot / It’s crazy the things we let go of.” He then moves into a chorus with Justin Vernon about grief, regret and feeling soulless. Weird Goodbyes is a song both about the fragility of life, but also the fleeting nature of moments in time that one can either savour or move past in some weird goodbye.

Matt and Justin harmonise extremely well in the chorus and has me hoping for more collaborations between the two. Vernon’s higher range is an excellent foil to Matt’s red wine soaked drawl. The mast few records from The National have been about mortality, but what is interesting about this track is the grey area. Is this someone realising they need to savour every moment and try harder to not waste their life? Or is it someone near the end of their life / contemplating ending their life that regrets not fully valuing what they had until it has passed them by? Whatever Matt had in mind, Weird Goodbyes is a poignant song that really connected with me emotionally.

Listen to Weird Goodbyes

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