The National
High Violet


4.0
excellent

Review

by Jared Ponton STAFF
April 24th, 2010 | 60 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I owe money, to the money, to the money I owe.

It seems that the Brooklyn boys have mastered the art of consistent and resilient album creation doesn’t it? You could follow their story back to 2005’s Alligator, the album that really made things start to happen for The National. Initially, critics and those first attentive passed it off as mediocre, ambiguous, and just head-scratching weird. But, however, there was a resilience and hidden treasure to be found within the album’s foundation that only grew in quality with the passing time. Songs like “Karen”, “Friend of Mine”, and “City Middle,” first thought of as painfully one-dimensional and simple, told a story of a man missing the best of his life, even when many promising years were still to follow. The release of 2007’s Boxer actually buttressed Alligator and made it all the more stronger in context. Fans then knew what to look for in The National’s work; everything, everything from the band had to be given time to grow. Having then knowing this, the fans and the critics were ready for Boxer, embracing the juggernaut album with open arms and giving it proper time to take root and bloom.

Are we in 2010 ready for High Violet as those in 2007 were ready for Boxer? Yes, in fact many of us may desperately need it. Where Boxer and Alligator’s message followed the awe-filled bewildered tension of a man looking over his life and realizing that he had never envisioned himself doing the things that he is now doing when he was younger, High Violet is the acceptance of the life that these two preceding albums lamented and pondered over: the pain, the day-to-day struggle, the love, and the continuing effort to just make it alive to the very next day. Many of us find ourselves in a similar situation in our own lives. What better way to cope with it than to have Matt Berninger and his rag-tag quartet of indie rock saviors relay our very same feelings, often disguised, back to us on record, ironically soothing and relieving the frustration and stress such lives often bring to our persons.

The characteristics that have made The National such an endearing, unique, though interestingly not-so unique, indie rock band in the past is Matt Berninger’s weathered, smoky baritone - the kind of voice that seems more fit for a man at least thirty to forty years his senior - and the onslaught of drummer Bryan Devendorf that together work hand-in-hand to spin the band’s main intentions and messages in their albums over the course of the tracks. “Terrible Love” sees High Violet already finding its legs from the onset. ‘It takes an ocean not to break,’ is recited over the band’s euphoric instrumental build up. Berninger rides the guitar rhythms of brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner, while Devendorf takes careful aim to explode in frantic fills no one would dare question the accuracy or potency of. From here, High Violet coils and straightens itself smoothly through its course, finding a few rougher, repetitive junctions in “Anyone’s Ghost”, “Lemonworld”, and “Runaway”, but quickly settling into a groove that no other band but The National could comfortably exist and operate in.

The National are careful to stick with what works here on High Violet. Berninger and Devendorf are the highlights once again - their interplay being best displayed on Boxer-esque anthem “Bloodbuzz Ohio”. However, the band seem to push hard in making this album feel even more complete than their past releases, if not with the inclusion of another flawless home-run set of songs, per se, but in a clearer, more encompassing all-band utilization. The Dessner brothers are more prevalent on High Violet. Their strums are more impacting and noticeable in the music, and even a healthy set of harmonious vocal melodies touch and flirt with Berninger on such tracks as “Anyone’s Ghost”, “ Afraid of Everyone”, “Conversation 16”, and “England”. It's little wonder that many will probably say that The National sound a little too comfortable with what they're currently doing in the conception of their music. In all honesty, though, their comfort is entirely warranted; every band member is vital to each song's success, and though the drums and the vocals are still in charge at the end of the day, everything here has to be in its right place for the album to work. This band is a machine: consistent, deadly, and precise.

As Boxer brought out the strengths of Alligator and contextualized it, so does High Violet buffer and position Boxer into a place where it can now be more easily absorbed and understood. If anything, this is the primary strength of the album: it makes everything that The National have done thus far sound even better. Many would agree that it’s rather difficult to fully take in this album and understand its intricacies without prior experience with The National. Afterall, it’s the next chapter in the band’s lovely ambiguous, but oh-so-personal story; you have to hear the story all the way through to grasp each part. High Violet is quality material that we have come to expect from The National, and as many fans now know post-Alligator, it will only get better with time.



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user ratings (1841)
Chart.
4.2
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Klekticist
April 24th 2010


1260 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"As Boxer brought out the strengths of Alligator and contextualized it, so does High Violet buffer and position Boxer into a place where it can now be more easily absorbed and understood. If anything, this is the primary strength of the album: it makes everything that The National have done thus far sound even better."



damn.

pos'd

AggravatedYeti
April 24th 2010


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

album is really really awesome.

all the things I didn't enjoy about Boxer are fleshed out with this.

review is ok I guess ;)

Ponton
Staff Reviewer
April 24th 2010


6000 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

That's cool Yeti, I'm glad you like it. Thanks!



That's the odd thing with this one for me. After having had listened to it, I now love Boxer even more. Fantastic band.

AggravatedYeti
April 24th 2010


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

truthfully my hate of Boxer is old and Ive since fallen even more in love with Alligator and Sad Songs sooooo I figure its about time.

seeing them again in July so I'm going to check it out again if only for the sake of memorizing it all for the concert experience.

Ill prob love it, whatever.

Review is top notch too, read again and just figured I'd make the point.

Ponton
Staff Reviewer
April 24th 2010


6000 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

sounds fun, where are you seeing them?

CelestialDust
April 24th 2010


3157 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

mmm impressive review man, as we have come to expect from you :P



i'm seeing them in brooklyn in july

AggravatedYeti
April 24th 2010


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

http://2010fr.osheaga.com



West Coast festivals are too far of a hike

Bonnaroo is too expensive

Im gonna poutine it up in French Canada in July.



saw them open for Arcade Fire errr 2 years back? Almost 3. Can't wait to see both again.

either way they fucking kick ass so if anyone is wondering YES SEE THE NATIONAL LIVE.

Ponton
Staff Reviewer
April 24th 2010


6000 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, I rarely see bands live unfortunately, but id definitely push to see these guys. I'll see how free work is this summer



appreciate it celestrial

AggravatedYeti
April 24th 2010


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

doitdoitdoit.



TheSpirit
April 24th 2010


18215 Comments


I'm jealous of your skills. Pos.

Digging: Arizmenda - Stillbirth in the Temple of Venus

Ponton
Staff Reviewer
April 24th 2010


6000 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

green power ranger ftw man, and thanks



It's cool to see that you like this too.

SeaAnemone
April 24th 2010


21268 Comments


^This. I wish I could write this well this consistently. Review is fantastic

TheSpirit
April 24th 2010


18215 Comments


Yeah, it's a great album. I kinda listened to it at first as a joke considering I generally don't enjoy this kinda stuff, but I was really really really surprised.

If I can't write this good by 90 reviews, I give up

SeaAnemone
April 24th 2010


21268 Comments


is that directed towards me, TheSpirit? haha

Electric City
Emeritus
April 24th 2010


15744 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

as soon as the mods decide to promote contributors I hope you get a slot. youre extremely consistent and good. album rules

TheSpirit
April 24th 2010


18215 Comments


Well the first bit was directed towards Observer and the second part is directed towards anyone who read it haha.l

Ponton
Staff Reviewer
April 24th 2010


6000 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Boxer is still better in my opinion, but many would hold to Alligator.



Well, I really think I wasted a lot of my reviews to be honest. I keep hearing its quality and not quantity and as evidenced by kirgasm ( like 50 or something ) that's very true. I've learned i need to slow down and just make everyone my best





TheSpirit
April 24th 2010


18215 Comments


They're all better than mine so....





I think your quantity/quality ratio is fine

Athom
Emeritus
April 24th 2010


17240 Comments



as soon as the mods decide to promote contributors I hope you get a slot. youre extremely consistent and good. album rules

123123123

Ponton
Staff Reviewer
April 24th 2010


6000 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

thanks electric city



and thanks spirit. Your's are always getting better. I really try my best, but im no lewis parry



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