Album Review: The National – High Violet

By on Friday, 7th May 2010 at 12:00 pm

The word perfect has been redefined, and it comes in the form of “High Violet.” Don’t worry, it will all make sense once you listen to The National’s latest album. First things first, though. If you’re a casual fan of the band, having only heard their highly acclaimed “Boxer” album released three years ago, fear not. The group has picked up where they gloriously left off.

The ambiguity is richer, the themes of loneliness and confusion still remain, as do thick layers of heavy instrumentation and spine tingling emotions. Take opening track, “Terrible Love”, for example. The song kicks off with an anthemic tones that are more than a little reminiscent of very early U2 riffs. Similar to “Fake Empire” on the band’s last album, the song holds the right amount of welcoming power to pull the listener into the entire LP.

Produced by the talented Peter Katis, many of the tracks are fittingly weighed down with spectacular layers of sounds, but the thing is that those multi-layers are less than obvious upon first listen of the album. You really have to cram your headphones down your ear to try to make sense of the rather brilliant noises rising above it all. It would be wiser to just appreciate the hard work of the band who created this masterpiece, though.

Still another more obvious subject that baritone singer Matt Berninger frequently references to is that of anxiety. In fact, dizzy apprehensions are dripping through in most songs. If track titles like “Runaway” and ‘Everyone’s Ghost” don’t signal a sense of unease, then well maybe lyrics such as, “With my kid on my shoulders I try not to hurt anyone I like…I don’t have the drugs to sort it out”, pervade an overwhelming feeling of nervousness on “Afraid of Everyone.”

What makes the album even more beautiful are the soaring crescendos heard in songs such as the five minute, climax building “England”, where a gentle piano riff opens the song and a sublime, rockier, blast of strings finishes it off.

Oh, and that well-rehearsed adage of “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, could certainly be applied to album standout “Lemonhead”, a poppy narrative backed by the pulsing of strings and lovely spoken rhythms of a muttering Berninger. As a side note, the song apparently went through different 80 takes! The band ultimately stuck with the original version in the end.

It would be natural to spill the beans with a lot more specifics and details of “High Violet”, as it’s simply a great piece of work that is too easy to gush about. That would spoil the many great surprises within, however. So follow the words of a simpleton and check out this album. If you’re not a fan of the band yet, you soon will be.

The National’s High Violet is out on Monday – you can pre-order it from Amazon.

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[…] National. This is their new video for lead single off their stunning new album, High Violet that Emmy reviewed last week, and is suitably dark and morose.Watch and loose yourself in the melancholy for a bit with […]

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