The National
High Violet


5.0
classic

Review

by djigor USER (4 Reviews)
August 4th, 2010 | 15 replies | 4,873 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The National's High Violet is a stunning work of art that will hardly be surpassed in musicianship, passion and vision, anytime soon in this new decade.

2 of 2 thought this review was well written

Although not immediately apparent from energetic, but not so polished sounding opening track, "Terrible Love", High Violet is an ambitious and lush sounding album. It is the National taking their craft to the next level. While technically it is an indie album, this is the sound for the masses, sound for these uncertain, fast-changing times. The band has been on a hot streak, especially with their last two full lengths releases, garnering critical praise as well as many new devoted fans. Those two: 2005 Alligator and 2007 Boxer each had a distinctive flavor. While Alligator had more musical range and featured two songs that featured Matt Berninger's primal screaming (“Abel” and “Mr. November”) Boxer was more cohesive as a whole and displayed a lot of restraint and tension. Hardcore fans were left wondering how will High Violet compare. And the answer is: it is somewhere in-between the two.

The National are a certainly a band where each member brings their share to the table, but not many will disagree that two signature aspects of the band are Matt Berninger’s voice and Bryan Devendorf’s drumming. Good news is that on High Violet both of them sound better than ever. Matt’s baritone (often compared to Nick Cave or Tindersticks' Stuart A. Staples) has been stretched to the upper boundaries with great results. This is most obvious on "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks", "Afraid Of Everyone" and the chorus of "Little Faith". Bryan’s usually highly dynamic drumming is well, more dynamic and more varied than ever. Just listen to the clicking cymbals and their interaction with other pieces of drum kit in "Sorrow" and "Conversation 16" or heartbeat like, muted kick drum of "Runaway". And while we are on the subject of drumming, here we find something that distinguishes the National from any other band in music, and it is best found in song “Sorrow”. Almost any other band with those lyrics would sound dreary, depressed, but Bryan figuratively speaking, like the physical heart of the band keeps the song’s blood pumping, making it sound at the same time exhilarating, as Matt’s deep vocal delivery, especially the line "I don’t wanna get over you", makes it chilling. I confess that playing "Sorrow" while driving I still haven’t been able to stop tapping the stirring wheel of my car!

Another one of the highlights of the album, in the album full of highlights is above mentioned "Afraid Of Everyone" which features high background vocals by band’s friend Sufjan Stevens and lyrical display of paranoia of a father (as Matt has also recently become one) in post 9/11 world. Its lyrics and mood are nicely accented with paranoid sounding guitar riff and one part marching, another part machine gun-like drumming pattern. And the way this song ends with Matt repeating haunting line “You’re the voices swallowing my soul, soul, soul” while Bryan behind the drum kit unloads what sounds like a few clips of his machine gun drum pattern, making it the highlight moment in ten year history of this hardworking NYC via Ohio band.

Furthermore, the band has expanded their sound by the increased use of orchestra, wind instruments and strings. It’s safe to say that every song features some parts played by the classical instruments. This is however done with lots of finesse, as these five men masterly know how much is enough before they enter dangerous MOR waters. And this may be the qualities I admire the most in the National--their talent to know when to hold back instead just go for it and sound like just another U2 or Coldplay with their stadium anthems (not that those two didn’t create two of the most emotionally incredible moments in rock music in last 20 years in "One" and "the Scientist", respectively).

Additionally, this time around songs’ lyrics seem to be much more direct, more personal and less cryptic or about the lives of others (with maybe exception in "Conversation 16", "Lemonworld" and "Vanderlyle"). This superbly correlates with Matt’s more emotional singing, making the album easily their warmest to date. Obviously, in the past they’ve had a few songs on each release that would be in this category such as the fan favorite "About Today" (from Cherry Tree EP), "Daughters Of The Soho Riots" (from Alligator) or "Slow Show" (from the Boxer), but here the whole album permeates warmth even when not lyrically then by its sound.

High Violet is National’s most accomplished work, something they have hinted at in the past five years. Here they literally take helm as Americas finest rock band, carefully walking the line of artistic credibility and accessibility, releasing something that will be hard to surpass in musicianship, passion and vision, anytime soon in this new decade.


user ratings (1749)
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4.2
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
SeaAnemone
August 4th 2010



20049 Comments


no way

edit: cool review though, posalicious

Digging: Natural Snow Buildings - The Night Country

vanderb0b
August 4th 2010



3473 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I've been meaning to check this out, as I love Boxer. Review convinced me to do so, nice work.

Deceptioneer
August 4th 2010



509 Comments


agreed

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
August 4th 2010



7326 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review. This is my album of the year so far, but I cant help but feel that it loses momentum in Lemonworld and Runaway, as good as those songs are.

Enotron
August 4th 2010



7695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

what makes you think I enjoy being left to the flood?

shindip
August 4th 2010



3536 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great review... this wishes it was Boxer or Alligator

Enotron
August 4th 2010



7695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

not really. if anything the songwriting sounds a little more similar to alligator, though its orchestral sound is more reminiscent of boxer. but all three records are different and awesome in their own way.

fromtheinside
August 4th 2010



18082 Comments


runaway is probably the only song i can do without.

Digging: Transcending Bizarre? - The Serpent's Manifolds

Enotron
August 4th 2010



7695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

wtf that's a great song!

Deceptioneer
August 4th 2010



509 Comments


it's too repetitive imo, but still great. that and lemonworld totally throw the record off pace, but conversation 16 and england and vanderlyle crybaby geeks pick it back up so it's all good

djigor
August 4th 2010



13 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks guys!

burnafterbreeding
August 5th 2010



1466 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Love Lemonworld. Can not understand da h8.

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
August 5th 2010



7023 Comments


so happy i was invited
=)

Digging: FKA twigs - LP1

DJD
August 15th 2010



39 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I, too, love "Lemonworld." And while "Runaway" isn't my favorite tune of all time, it seems necessary in the grand scheme and flow of the album. IMO, without the quiet break in the record (following the monstrous centerpiece of "Bloodbuzz Ohio"), the end wouldn't have as large of an impact on the listener ("Conversation 16" comes as a kick in the face after "Runaway")

bab808
November 4th 2010



456 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

lemonworld is one of my favs. probably only second to england. it's extremely catchy



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