Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: The National - High Violet

It all comes rushing back. That's how it feels to listen to 'High Violet', The National's 5th studio album. It's one of those albums that has the power to remind you how great music can really be.

This album also proves that this band isn't afraid to take some welcome chances. Starting off an album as anticipated as this one with a 'demo' takes a lot of balls. It also takes a lot of confidence in your material as well. "Terrible Love" starts the album off in a raw manner, leading you to think that perhaps the entire album is going to have the same 'Basement Tapes' sound to it. The rest of the album isn't nearly as dirty, in fact it's quite lush with just the right amount of polish.

Taking it's lead from 'Boxer,' The National's previous album, this is a beautiful sounding record filled with little bits and pieces you won't even notice until the 10th listen. 'High Violet' seems like the end of a trilogy at times, taking what worked for 'Alligator' and 'Boxer' and taking it to it's practical conclusion. Where those previous albums may have stumbled occasionally, their latest is always on point, which is a real treat for listener.

Bryan Devendorf's drumming and Matt Berninger's lyrics/vocals are still at the forefront of most of the songs, and if it ain't broke, please don't fix it. Devendorf plays with perfect precision and restraint on songs like "Little Faith" and "Bloodbuzz Ohio" and Berninger's lyrics are better than they've ever been.

On "Anyone's Ghost," Berninger paints a deeper and more lyrical painting than most listeners are accustomed to, with lines like; "Go out at night, with your headphones on again, and walk through the Manhattan valleys of the dead." With such great imagery, a National trademark at this point, this song is a definite highlight on an album filled that's filled with them.

Another of which is lead single "Bloodbuzz Ohio," which defies the common logic that the first single is usually the worst song on an album. While it's not the best song on the album, that honor goes to "Conversation 16," (more on that gem in a minute). Featuring the surreal lyric of being "carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees." This is not only one of Berninger's best songs lyrically, but vocally as well.
Back in 2001 on their debut there was a track titled "The Perfect Song," well now nine years later they finally have the perfect National song in the form of "Conversation 16." A thing of pure beauty and a little bit of malice, this song captures everything that's great about this band. Berninger sings with such conviction that it seems as if he truly believes what he's saying and when he repeats "I was afraid I'd eat your brains, Cause I'm evil," you believe it too.

For those of us in need of real music from a real band, The National's 'High Violet' will certainly deliver. If you're a fan of bands that clearly know what they're doing and are really good at it too, than I urge you to get this album as soon as possible.

'High Violet' is everything an album should be; great without being pretentious, very interesting/far fetched lyrically, and amazing instrumental prowess all rolled into one great package. At one point on the album Berninger claims he's "a confident liar," and that just may be the key to The National's continued success.

Best Tracks:
Conversation 16
Bloodbuzz Ohio
Anyone's Ghost
Terrible Love
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

1 comment:

daniel said...

Great review!

This truly is a modern classic and is bound to top the end of year lists, or at least it damn well should!

A perfect winet album full of solemn imagery and sparse, atmospheric yet tight and melodic songs.