With the arrival of their new album today, the National have finally released their eagerly-anticipated collaboration with Taylor Swift, “The Alcott.”
The aching ballad is about a couple meeting and trying to reconnect; Berninger takes the lead, offering one side of that story, before Swift joins on the chorus and deftly threads through the other side, as the song builds to its emotional peak: “I tell you that I think I’m falling,” Berninger and Swift sing together, “Back in love/Back in love/Back in love with you.”
Berninger offered some insight into the song during an interview with Hanuman Welch on Apple Music 1. He explained that he wrote the first part, and perspective, of “The Alcott,” after which Aaron Dessner — who produced much of Swift’s two 2020 albums, Folklore and Evermore — sent them to her.
“I think she jumped right into the role of the other voice, the other perspective,” Berninger said. “I was writing about my wife, but, you know, it sets a scene of a person with a notebook writing in a bar basically. And she knew exactly… she fit right into that spot, and she knows. So when it came back and all of a sudden this song I’d written suddenly has the other viewpoint, or the other perspective added to it by one of the greatest songwriters of all time.”
He added, “It was such a fun, exciting thing, and it just made that song so much more beautiful and so much more dimensional.”
“The Alcott” appears on the National’s new album, First Two Pages of Frankenstein. To further mark the album’s release, the band performed one of their recent singles, “Eucalyptus,” on The Tonight Show last night.
First Two Pages of Frankenstein marks the National’s first album since 2019’s I Am Easy to Find, and along with Swift, it features contributions from Phoebe Bridgers and Sufjan Stevens. The National will hit the road in support of the album next month with a lengthy North American trek that starts May 20 in Chicago and wraps Aug. 18 in New York City.