The National - High Violet (Cover Artwork)

The National

The National: High VioletHigh Violet (2010)
4AD Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: AnchorsAnchors
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Forget fingers--Matt Berninger has the world on the tip of his tongue. Few singers have as distinct or as stirring a voice as the National's frontman, and on the band's fifth studio album, High Violet, he's as morose and transfixing as ever. Berninger's voice gives the National a real air of des.
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Forget fingers--Matt Berninger has the world on the tip of his tongue.

Few singers have as distinct or as stirring a voice as the National's frontman, and on the band's fifth studio album, High Violet, he's as morose and transfixing as ever. Berninger's voice gives the National a real air of desolation, of hopelessness and solitude. It may not be warm, happy, summer day music but it's as engaging as ever.

And it has to do a lot with subject matter. Berninger's tales of longing and despair are tales that everyone, at one point or another in life, can relate to. It's a certain kind of comfort in knowing there's music for those cold, bleak days and a person who is out there feeling them too.

The aptly titled "Sorrow" begins with the pitter-patter of drummer Byran Devendorf's snare and some quick strumming from guitarist Bryce Dessner before Berninger's deep baritone delivers the lamentations of youth ("Sorrow found me when I was young, sorrow waited, sorrow won") and the effects of depression well into adulthood ("Sorrow's my body on the waves, sorrow's a girl inside my cave / I live in a city sorrow built, it's in my honey, it's in my milk") all while maintaining those emotions in minimal instrumentation. It's not that other aspects of the band are by any means put on the back burner, just that they're the perfect accent to Berninger instead of the primary focus.

That's not to discount any of Berninger's bandmates, though, for as important as the vocals are they'd have far less impact without the perfect moods set in each of Violet's 11 tracks. An ominous bassline and warm background string work bring "Afraid of Everyone" in, and Berninger details the throes of depression and isolation. After wailing "I don't have the drugs to sort it out," the percussion establishes a taut rhythm and Berninger voices his demons:

"I'll defend my family with my orange umbrella, I'm afraid of everyone / I'm afraid of everyone, with my shining blue star / With my kid on my shoulders I try, to not hurt anybody I like / But I don't have the drugs to sort it out, I don't have the drugs to sort it out."

It's the intricacies of the instrumentation that really start to sink in after repeated listens. On "Afraid of Everyone," what seems at first to be a fairly standard rhythm is mired in complexity. The deep tones of guitarist Dessner's guitar and the weaving in and out of guitarist Aaron Dessner's soulful-but-reserved progressions create a second layer of sound. On "Lemonworld," it's Devendorf's drumming that comes to the forefront. One of the more fast-paced songs on the album sees Berninger croon atop Devendorf's pronounced rhythms, and as Berninger saunters over the mid-tempo track, the drumming becomes louder and the rhythms more varied.

It's a perfect example of the National's innate ability to marry deep, captivating vocals and sweeping, complex rhythms. It's not the pace nor the duration of the National's songs that matter, but the feeling and mood contained within.


People who liked this also liked:
The Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!The Gaslight Anthem - American SlangAgainst Me! - As The Eternal CowboyThe Menzingers - Chamberlain WaitsThe Lawrence Arms - The Greatest Story Ever ToldThe National - BoxerThe Menzingers - On the Impossible PastThe Lawrence Arms - Cocktails And DreamsAgainst Me! - Searching For A Former ClarityThe Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
K0linn (May 26, 2010)

This is some good stuff! I hadn't heard of them before this album, but I know they'll turn into one of my favourite bands.

ollywood (May 23, 2010)

I think Aligator is one of the best albums i have ever heard, i definitely didn't think so for the first 2 years of listening to it but it is AMAZING. Boxer not as much but in a couple years ill probably change my mind. I cant wait to listen to this.

slymer (May 19, 2010)

This is really good, not quite as good as 'Boxer' though.

keithybobeefy (May 17, 2010)

The three albums best fitting my mood as of right now:

The National-High Violet
The Mountain Goats-Get Lonely
Brand New-The Devil and God...

'Sorrow' is amazing.

rosshostage (May 17, 2010)

I ordered this album based on this review and their Letterman performance. I can't wait for it to arrive!

thepopeofchili-town (May 16, 2010)

I've never listened to this band, but judging by this review and these comments, I should start.

TheMike (May 15, 2010)

Yeah, he kind of does have the Cash thing going on, especially on the first two albums.

nocigar (May 15, 2010)

this album is so awesome. i still think this dude sounds like Cash.

encorp (May 14, 2010)

fucking great album. One of those goose bumpy mother fuckers

SouthernLovin (May 14, 2010)

Great band. Everything they've released is solid. Especially if you're like me and like a little boring melancholy mixed in with your punk rock.

Carlo_Cabinetti (May 14, 2010)

Bullshit comment - there is no mutual exclusivity between liking Kid Dynamite and The National. Anyone who thinks there is needs to grow the fuck up.

Anyway, shit is good - as good as Boxer...but there's no Slow Show on there so Boxer just pips it.

kidgotham (May 14, 2010)

This is such a great record. Every listen it gets better and better. I love Alligator and Boxer to death, but I think years from now, this will be my favourite record of theirs. The anthems are not there (mr November), but it has a lot of depth and heart.

slymer (May 14, 2010)

I still need to pick this up. I love 'Boxer'. I had no idea that these guys had 5 albums. I guess I need to check em out.

TheMike (May 14, 2010)

I wasn't too fussed on Little Faith and Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks at first, but they've since grown on me. This album might be their second perfect release in a row.

"Terrible Love", "Bloodbuzz Ohio" and "Lemonworld" are probably my favourite songs here.

miker (May 14, 2010)

going to be the forerunner for a LOT of people for album of the year. rightfully so.

coldwaraaron (May 14, 2010)

this is good music.

XchinatownX (May 14, 2010)

You like Kid Dynamite, so I doubt that you should be checking out a record as sophisticated as this one.

colin (May 14, 2010)

man this is easily a 9 to me. possible record of the year for me. came out of nowhere and impresses the shit out of me.

Cheesetits (May 14, 2010)

This band is mind numbingly boring.

inagreendase (May 14, 2010)

This dude's voice has always been way too overwrought for me, but I really, really dig "Afraid of Everyone." Should I be checking this out?

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