If you can’t actually hear High Violet
now, wait a year and re-listen. This is about more than a sound. This is an album that lumps together with your life and becomes braided with your daily events. Once you relate, you’ll feel it.
I jump back and forth frequently between this and Boxer
...between moods, between days, but that’s part of what makes The National so arresting: the ability to sync with emotion. I’ll call High Violet
a grower, one that can creep up on almost anyone. At first, the sounds were almost generic, like a dull-normal collision of instruments and voice--uninteresting and lazy. I went in, though, without any real expectations or attractions. It was one of those superficial listening sessions where the television was part of the track. No expectations. Then something happened. Conversation 16 began narrating my daily life: from the “***ty thoughts I think” to “living off coffee and flowers,” to being a “confident liar,” to telling “miserable things after you are asleep.” It seemed Matt Berninger was sitting at my kitchen bar droning off about my life, not trying to depress me but to validate it all. Once I actually began listening for the meaning of the words, I started unraveling the emotion of the songs. I found out why the songs seemed boring. They needed animation and life from the listener. They thrive off of that connection.
This can grow on anyone, so I slowly (and unintentionally) introduced this album to my friend via car rides back and forth between our apartments. During one of those seven-minute midnight trips, filtering through the annoyingly inefficient stoplight patterns of downtown, I recall him unknowingly chanting, “I was afraid...I’d eat your brains...” A phrase that initially seemed silly, but grew to mean so much. Maybe it just hit me hard at that moment, where I was stuck in a rut, taking the same daily routes to do the same routines, noticing how much I rub off on those around me. High Violet is filled with those lines that really grip your being, and make your arm-hairs raise when you really tether down. It’s an album of life, and life is dark, confusing, yet still inspiring. What once sounded colorless and lazy now feels lush. The baritone vocals swell with dense imagery and mix with warbly, sometimes ghostly guitar lines. The singing has a certain tinge of nervousness in the delivery. The songs are brightened up in parts with horns, strings, or piano that overlay a plodding, pulsing percussion. Everything sounds lived-in and worn, but so new.
For me, High Violet
wasn’t something that I found while similar-genre hunting. It’s hard to express really. I’m not drawn to this solely because of sound that my ears register as “good.” High Violet narrates life. That’s what’s heard--the drab similarities between the songs and life of the everyday man. Bring your sorrow with you, and enjoy the sorrow that is High Violet. Bring your happiness, and be humbled.