Review Summary: It's solid and relatable, avoiding pretentious experimentation.3 of 3 thought this review was well written
Mumbling guitars and ominous pianos introduce the world to The National's newest release High Violet, and listeners are gently lulled into a ballad, the main character: a glossy-eyed, modern man. The National brings this CD to the listeners as if it's a secret. They relate a message so earnest and forthcoming it feels as though it never should have been shared in the first place. Rest, recuperation, and stability are the subjects of The National's latest endeavor.
Matt Berninger's baritone voice is yet again the center of this band's metaphor-laden songs. He relates to the everyday man and sympathizes with his day-to-day plights. At times it may feel self-indulgent such as when Berninger harps, "I still owe money / to the money / to the money I owe," but the message becomes a testament to most common human beings in today's world. Especially with the economic fiasco in America today, the message is able to span across a large plane among the low, middle, and upper classes. With such mellow material, Berninger is also able to conjure up beautiful imagery. In their opening number "Terrible Love" Berninger sings, "It takes an ocean not to break" and "It's a terrible love / and I'm walking with spiders." The details are vivid. Also, in the strangely zombie-apocalypse-esque "Conversation 16" he talks about eating brains and there's some recurring imagery with Boxer's "Mistaken for Strangers" with the "silver city" and the overarching theme of estrangement.
Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Scott and Bryan Devendorf--the two pairs of brothers who make up the instrumentation of the band--parallel the lyrics well. In the same fashion, the music is simple, honest, and feels perfected. It's as if the band picked up their instruments, analyzed their lyrical themes, and solidified it into a poetic performance. From the piano interludes in songs like "Lemonworld" and the swells of strings in their closer "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks," the music feels well-structured. Deliberate.
Some listeners may leave High Violet with an exhaustion only found in the most typical and cliche of indie-rock. But a careful listener will find that The National has taken them into the arms of all human beings, they've found a common ground, and they have given the average man a common theme to relate to. Berninger sings his secrets like he no longer wants them to be secrets anymore. The National has already laid a solid foundation with their previous albums Alligator and Boxer, but instead of experimenting and striving for lofty and pretentious heights, this band has continued to move upward and remain stable, building their musical repertoire one solidly candid performance after another.