Pick of the Week: The National and Bon Iver “Weird Goodbyes”

Pick of the Week: The National and Bon Iver "Weird Goodbyes"
Graphics by Kasvi Bhatia

By Tatum Jenkins, Music Coordinator

The National and Bon Iver have come together on the achingly beautiful song “Weird Goodbyes.” They sing lamentingly of something, or someone, lost.



If you’re a fan of The National or Bon Iver, you probably know this isn’t the first time the two artists have collaborated. 

Aaron Dessner, a founding member of the National, and Justin Vernon, the individual behind Bon Iver, have performed together multiple times. The National headlined Vernon’s music festival Eaux Claires. Plus, the two have a project called Big Red Machine together. 

Most notably, Dessner and Vernon worked together on Taylor Swift’s albums folklore and evermore. Dessner brought Vernon onto those albums to duet with Swift on the tracks “exile” and “evermore.” Additionally, Dessner got The National’s lead singer Matt Berninger to appear on “coney island” for evermore

Considering this history of collaboration, it seems almost natural for the National to gravitate towards working with Bon Iver for the first single of their upcoming ninth album.



The track went through multiple titles – “Bathwater” and “Mount Auburn,” for examples – before the artists landed on “Weird Goodbyes.” It’s almost symbolic of how the whole song came together.

The beat that kicks off the song and persists through the melancholic piano and vocals was a random sound that came together when Dessner was messing around with drum machines. Once they established that beat, Berninger swooped in with his deep vocals and his poetry.

However, Dessner still felt something was missing. He sent it to Justin Vernon. Vernon loved the song and wanted to sing with Berninger. 

Their vocals intertwine perfectly in this song. Vernon’s lighter tone balances Berninger’s more dark sound. Listening, it makes it hard to believe that this is the first time The National has incorporated a guest vocalist on a track of theirs.



The National haven’t yet confirmed a new project, but there definitely seems to be something coming from the group. 

They’ve been performing this song for fans on tour over the summer, alongside unreleased material. Berninger has also shared that the group has been recording while they’ve been on the road.

He said of the process: “Not only are some of the songs informed by playing them live, but we’ve even been recording them in soundchecks from the stage and recording incredibly loud live guitars. The songs are quite far along, but we’re discovering things about them in real-time. We’ve got a small studio backstage, so we’re able to get a lot of work done here.” 

The National will be on tour until September 25th, so hopefully the album lands in our hands sometime in the fall. Locally, they have plans to put on a sold out show on September 22nd at Roadrunner in Boston.

Every Monday, our music staff brings you a new Pick of The Week, detailing some of our favorite songs. Check out our previous Picks of the Week here, and make sure to tune in to WERS 88.9FM!

Uncommon Newsletter

Music reviews, ticket giveaways, live performances & member specials.

Sign Up

We'll never sell your email, be boring or try to sell you on bad music.

in studio performances