The National – High Violet [Album Review]

by Woody on May 12, 2010

the national

Can anyone truly capture tension and anxiety like The National?‚  Matt Berninger and crew follow a consistent recipe on their new release, High Violet, released yesterday.‚ ‚  If darkness is indeed palpable, High Violet will make you feel it.

The album kicks off with my favorite track, “Afraid of Everyone,” building to a modest crescendo of nervy, scratchy lead guitar and pulsating percussion that drive a current of tense electricity.‚  Following is the most Boxer-like track on the album, “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and shortly thereafter is the wonderfully depressing “Sorrow.”‚  Even in the brightest of your days, you can’t help but be affected by lyrics such as the opening lines of this track, “sorrow found me when I was young/sorrow waited, sorrow won”.

The sun rarely emerges around the clouds on this album, but like Elliott Smith at his peak, dark music can be wonderfully enjoyable.‚  It isn’t the gloom that resonates on High Violet so much as it is tension.‚  Unlike the bands that followed the trail of Wilco and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in an effort to capture post 9/11 America, or the anxiety of living in the technological world as conveyed by the music of OK Computer, The National seems intent on describing the intensity of our everyday existence; our common maladies.

Unlike Boxer, this album largely lacks the big anthem and the simple moments stand out, the occasional light acoustic strums, soft piano, mixed with appropriate does of string arrangements. This is a great album from a band at its peak.‚  At times the lyrics can be a little wearisome, but all-in-all the music and musicianship is wonderful and reflects the full talent of this band.

The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio

Live Video: The National – Anyone’s Ghost

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Destrukto May 12, 2010 at 7:44 am

LOVED The Boxer, can’t wait to get this:), hanks dude:) (or dudette)

Woody May 12, 2010 at 7:57 am

I am enjoying this album but I don’t think it reaches the heights of Boxer or Alligator. Still an excellent album and well worth getting.

amelamusic May 12, 2010 at 11:04 am

Good stuff, like the comments above me….I loved The Boxer!

Dan May 12, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Are there various track listings for High Violet? The only reason I ask is that the one I bought goes like this:

1. Terrible Love
2. Sorrow
3. Anyone’s Ghost
4. Little Faith
5. Afraid of Everyone
6. Bloodbuzz Ohio
7. Lemonworld
8. Runaway
9. Conversation 16
10. England
11. Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

This would appear to be considerably different from the one being reviewed here…

MJD May 12, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Good thoughts, good evaluation. I’m a little confused by the track order you have; I downloaded mine from eMusic, and the order is considerably different. But that is hardly the point — you describe the album and its power/allure well. There is a measured majesty to their sound.

I get why some people are put off by this band, or are puzzled by the acclaim. But, man, they work for me. Big-time. I’d love to see The National in a club, especially after watching them play “Terrible Love” on Fallon. They rocked.

Woody May 12, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Dan, oddly enough – our review copy came with the tunes in a different order than what is shown on Amazon or Emusic.

Agnes May 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Was wondering the same thing myself, re the order of tracks! Very odd.

El Payo May 17, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Holy crap – it looks like they’re standing in front of the elevators from The Shining.

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