The National
High Violet


5.0
classic

Review

by STOP SHOUTING! USER (28 Reviews)
February 13th, 2012 | 19 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Your voice is swallowing my soul soul soul soul soul soul soul soul soul soul soul soul soul...

Sometimes - usually when I’m drunk - I think about life and I think about death. And what it all means. Not so much the physical stuff, the big bang, the primeval soup, the transmutability of matter and energy - I get all that, sort of. No, I’m talking about emotions that well inside me from nowhere - where do they come from? And where do they go? Like when you’re in love with someone and the physical world is ...transformed. Lit up. Transfigured. By what exactly, by something intangible? And then you break up and reality goes blurred, denuded, flattened. As if something non-physical -spirituality?- has just gone and turned off the lights, left the building, leaving you trapped inside. A coldness. Empty.

This is a spiritual record. The album title references an obscure religious cult. The lyrics are littered with biblical connotations, studded with souls, saints, sinners, priests, nuns, angels. Listening to this is like entering a cathedral, a cathedral of sound. Footsteps echo on the cold stones, reverberant, as choral chants ascend to the vaults, strings and horns uplifting to the infinite firmament beyond. Surely a celebration of the beauty of life, of new life? But also haunted. Candles flick spangles of light onto walls, creating shadows, hiding and revealing all and nothing simultaneously. You notice the fuzzy dissonance, the buzzing taglines, the reverential drones.

Dessner’s arrangements feel as if every note has been stripped down, honed and refitted, much more tightly knit and focussed than the jazz-tinged, elegant rambles of Boxer. If that album evokes the world of F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby, lost in the past, High Violet with its themes of displacement summons up Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Just as in that novel, the father-child relationship is explored, Berninger intuiting a physical world invested with a child’s fears, full of ghosts and brain eating monsters, an Alice-in-Wonderland reality, where we walk with spiders, are carried off by swarms of bees.

In fact, I’ve never known an album to brood so on the struggles of parenthood. Every song seems to allude in some oblique fashion to a creaking family unit beset by the strains of a screaming baby; and the child’s pain. In “Anyone’s Ghost” it’s as if the child itself has become a ghost, a ghost of the love that once belonged in the parent’s relationship, a vestige of a once living thing. The effect is gut-wrenching (“you said it was not in my heart, it was. You said it should tear a kid apart, it does.”)

But amidst this domiciled carnage, the skeletal runt of the litter “Runaway” declares an unequivocal commitment from father to child to stick around and see things through. “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” goes further, spelling out a profound shift in Weltanschauung. What matters in life? Money, sex, your career? Berninger opts for something more humdrum - just being there for your child; looking after those close to you - and achieves in that basic aspiration a transcendence from the “evil”, “confident liar” with his “shitty thoughts” to at last some kind of affirmation, at last some kind of (and here’s that word again) spirituality:

“Cry baby cry. Oh the waters are rising, it’s all been forgiven, the swans are a-swimmin. I’ll explain everything to the geeks: all the very best of us string ourselves up for love. All the very best of us string ourselves up for love. All the very best of us string ourselves up for love. All the very best of us string ourselves up for love.”



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user ratings (1803)
Chart.
4.2
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
johnnyblaze
February 13th 2012


2637 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

i think you have four too many souls bro

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
February 13th 2012


16965 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

Good rating, good review

Digging: Low Roar - 0

Funeralopolis
February 13th 2012


11895 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Just thought I'd hop on my alt to tell twice that you did such a good job!

Digging: Owen Pallett - In Conflict

YrArgumentIsInvalid
February 13th 2012


8 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

By far one of the best albums of 2011.

dammets
February 13th 2012


2035 Comments


great review

Phideaux
February 13th 2012


1656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Album rules.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
February 13th 2012


16965 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

Came out in 2010 not 2011

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
February 13th 2012


50960 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yrargumentisinvalid sowing

Digging: Friendzone - Collection 1

BigHans
February 13th 2012


26454 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Every time I hear England I am amazed I dont listen to it more cuz it rules so hard.

mvdu
February 13th 2012


613 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Even with a couple songs being less than perfect, it just makes the album more human. A classic album IMO.

KeithStone582
February 13th 2012


1481 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Lemonworld......

wacknizzle
February 13th 2012


13718 Comments


Never got into this band and im giving it another try but I just don't think this is my style.

Digging: The Banner - Greying

tarkus
February 13th 2012


5560 Comments


best ever

Eko
February 14th 2012


2119 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

not as good as Alligator or Boxer but one of the best of the decade regardless

Activista anti-MTV
February 14th 2012


3150 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

does this band play in the minor key all the time or what

Activista anti-MTV
February 14th 2012


3150 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

one of my favorite bands

Activista anti-MTV
February 14th 2012


3150 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i connected with their other lps much more so

STOP SHOUTING!
February 14th 2012


639 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"i think you have four too many souls bro"

can't have too much soul bro!


ohfoxxxycole
February 14th 2012


4353 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i cant place why but this will never top boxer/alligator for me



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