The National
High Violet



by Channing Freeman STAFF
April 22nd, 2010 | 6308 replies

Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The National release their third masterpiece in a row.

They exist in a genre that is notorious for being high-minded and devoid of any sort of immaturity, where music has lost all of its classic appeal and relativity in favor of abstract ideas and unfeeling electronics, so you've got to give The National the credit they deserve for making three perfect albums that fall into none of those pitfalls while perfectly detailing exactly what it's like to grow up - something that the rest of the indie community wants you to believe they never had to do. Could you imagine any other band coming up with lyrics like, "Hey love, we'll get away with it, we'll run like we're awesome, totally genius" and making it sound like it's the smartest thing ever? That's right, nobody else would because nobody else is The National. In fact, it's doubtful that any other indie band would even consider writing some of the lyrics that Matt Berninger comes up with. You could say that it takes courage for him to do such things if he didn't do them so deftly and nonchalantly. Say what you will about his somewhat monotone baritone or his sometimes indecipherable phrasings, but there is no armor for his words to hide behind, no cheap plating to inadequately cover up the fact that musicians feel the same things as everyone else. More than all of those things though, I never feel like The National are lying to me like other indie bands seem to, and that's why they're the best.

Alligator and Boxer were perfect examples of two different stages in life. Alligator was so young and so impulsive but there was doubt looming underneath, like the band knew there was more to everything but they were afraid to find out. There was the sense that the end of carelessness was constantly creeping up behind them and they were just barely able to keep fending it off. Boxer was the beginning of adulthood and responsibility, of recognizing what was left behind and trying not to be bitter because of it. There was nostalgia but it was somewhat jaded; it gave further weight to Alligator's allegations that they secretly hated that sort of careless lifestyle. High Violet moves completely beyond any sort of youthful folly; it's not so much a new era for The National as it is the next natural step that their music would take. The overall sound isn't too different - the music is still pure National - but as with all of their previous albums, there's a wholly different attitude that sets it apart from everything else they've done. Opening song "Terrible Love" is all reverb-tinged guitars with piano notes accentuating every measure; it's all very down-to-earth and chilled out until the chorus kicks in and brings more energy. And here is where I'll say it: Brian Devendorf is the best drummer in indie. Of course, it's not a genre typically known for fantastic drumming, but that's all the more reason to praise the drumming half of the Devendorf brothers. In a lot of ways, he is the last vestige of Alligator's energy, constantly breaking into rhythms that should not fit the music as well as they do. Listen to "Bloodbuzz Ohio," one of High Violet's best songs, in which Devendorf muscles his way into the otherwise tranquil, piano-driven bridge with his typical fervor.

There isn't a bad song on the album, and generally when people say things like that they seem to imply that there are still a few duds here and there. But High Violet is literally free of weak moments. Anyone familiar with how The National operate won't be surprised by that, but it's still an impressive feat because they're fairly deep into their career. While Boxer generally had none of Berninger's vocal tricks that he displayed on Alligator (the almost screamed "Abel," the raw energy of "Mr. November"), he brings some of that back on High Violet. The end of "Afraid Of Everyone" sees him stuttering as he sings "Your voice is swallowing my so-so-so-soul," and there are a few moments where his usually solitary vocals are assisted by backing vocals or even multi-tracked, like the majestic ending of "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks." His performance on "Runaway" is heart-wrenching, similar to Boxer's "Racing Like A Pro." "Conversation 16" could be the album's best song, and it's certainly the one that displays everyone's talents best. The drumming is unsurprisingly the highlight, but the airy guitars, faint horns, and apparition-like backing choir create a fantastic atmosphere for Berninger's vocals, which are anything but monotone throughout the track.

It would be easy to say that every song on High Violet has a highlight - be it the piano of "England," Berninger's "do do do do's" in "Lemonworld," or the bass in "Little Faith" - but the songs themselves are the highlights in an album that separates itself from Boxer and Alligator while still embracing that those albums made it what it is. The National should give faith to anyone who has become disillusioned with indie music, anyone who misses a time where it didn't seem like all the musicians thought they were better than you and you could actually relate to the damn words they were singing. High Violet is another batch of cement to further supplement The National's already unshakable concrete career.

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user ratings (2511)
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    I owe money, to the money, to the money I owe....

    Sowing STAFF (4.5)
    One of the greatest bands of our time unceremoniously drops their strongest record to date...

    HolidayKirk (5)
    My Half of Heart: High Violet and Depression...

    Apollo (5)
    The National have so perfectly crafted an album to describe the adult feelings, thoughts a...

    Your voice is swallowing my soul soul soul soul soul soul soul soul soul soul soul soul so...

    djigor (5)
    The National's High Violet is a stunning work of art that will hardly be surpassed in musi...

    rmill3r (4.5)
    It's solid and relatable, avoiding pretentious experimentation....

    Andy Antar (4.5)
    Sorrowfully post-romantic in its drawl, yet you can’t help but swell with love....

  • Alxander18 (5)
    The National's true gem....

    c0ffee (4.5)

    NeutralThunder12 (4.5)
    While The National may be “Afraid of Everyone”, it seems more fitting that everyone sh...

    BrianCurtis (5)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
April 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Only heard three songs so far but they all fucking rule.

Cuban Pete
April 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 3.5

that is a massive opening sentence.

April 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 4.0

Good review.

April 23rd 2010


Solid review. Definitely want to check this out.

April 23rd 2010


Oh. My. Gosh.

April 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

This + The Wild Hunt = epic year.

April 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 4.0

massive review. im really loving this album.

Electric City
April 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

im adam downer and i approve this review

April 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 4.5

this album was the first time i got into The national... and this could be my album of the year!

April 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 4.5

need this NOW...

April 23rd 2010


wow i think im gonna check these guys out

April 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 5.0

You haven't checked them out before? Your crazy...

April 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 2.5

the singers voice really irritates me, but the music is completely amazing.

April 23rd 2010


The National should give faith to anyone who has become disillusioned with indie music, anyone who misses a time where it didn't seem like all the musicians thought they were better than you and you could actually relate to the damn words they were singing.

This is so true, good review man.

April 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 5.0


April 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 2.5

Iluvatar's got a point. this just dosent seem right...

April 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 4.0

Hows it feel being the only 3 rating out of 37 ratings?

April 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 2.5

sweet, im the rebel. *changed* bumped it. this is good

April 23rd 2010


Album Rating: 4.5

Niceee, good to know this won't be dissappointing!

April 23rd 2010


anyone's ghost

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