The National are back with “Weird Goodbyes,” a new single featuring vocals by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and strings by the London Contemporary Orchestra (arranged by the band’s Bryce Dessner). It’s just the second new song they’ve shared since the release of their 2019 album I Am Easy to Find, following “Somebody Desperate,” their contribution to the Cyrano (2021) soundtrack.
“It’s about letting go of the past and moving on, then later being overwhelmed by second thoughts,” vocalist Matt Berninger explains of “Weird Goodbyes” in a statement.
“‘Weird Goodbyes’ was one of the first new songs we made,” Aaron Dessner recalls. “I was misusing drum machines, as usual, and stumbled onto this beat that got stuck in my head—it felt like something only [drummer] Bryan [Devendorf] could naturally play. We built the song around the beat. Matt’s melody and words felt so elegant and moving from the beginning—mourning a loss of innocence and motivation, holding onto memories and feelings that inevitably slip away and the grief we all suffer in weird goodbyes.”
Aaron Dessner adds, “I somehow could hear our friend Justin’s voice and heart in this song from the beginning. We sent it to him and it moved him—he then sang with Matt so powerfully.”
The National have been playing new material live this summer, including “Weird Goodbyes.” In an Instagram post announcing the track’s then-impending release last week, the band revealed they had “reconvened at Long Pond [last spring] to begin writing and recording new music that we’ve been working on ever since.” They noted that “Weird Goodbyes” “felt like the right track to share first,” adding, “We’re so grateful to our friend Justin Vernon for joining us on this song.”
The band will continue touring through the summer and into the fall, with appearances at All Points East in London (Aug. 26) and the inaugural Sound on Sound festival in Bridgeport, Connecticut (Sept. 25). “Additional worldwide touring is planned for 2023,” per a press release.
Check out “Weird Goodbyes” below, along with The National and Bon Iver performances (circa 2007 and 2008, respectively) from the Paste archives.