Good Vibrations

The National: High Violet

Rating: 9.2

Label: 4AD

Release Date: May 11, 2010

Reminds me of: Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Sufjan Stevens

If there was ever any question that The National was capable of being one of the few bands to define today’s musical landscape, High Violet – their fifth full-length studio album – should send a clear message that they are.  Starting with 2005′s Alligator, followed by their magnum opus Boxer, and continuing to present day, The National are in the midst of a string of brilliant releases.  Quite a rare feat in today’s musical universe.

At first blush, High Violet is a bit of a downer.  Yet, somehow with each listen, the music morphs into a collection of deeply resonant songs, each thoughtful in its approach.  After awhile you find yourself immersed in a sea of musical textures and sounds that do not readily make themselves known from the outset.  In some ways High Violet is a continuation of the formula that the band executed effortlessly on Boxer.  Lead singer Matt Berninger sings with ambiguity channeling, joy, reflection, despair and even oddity (“I was afraid I’d eat your brains”).  And while the music continues along the same path as its predecessor,  High Violet goes a step further.  While both Boxer and High Violetseem to move at a similar pace, there is more grandiosity here.  In particular, the last two songs on the album — “England” and “Vanderlyle,” which are the kind of songs that showcase a band that is in full command of its purpose with equal pomposity and grace.  I’m not sure if these Ohio boys got anything left in the tank after this, but doubtless many will be waiting.

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2 thoughts on “Good Vibrations

  1. OK…I found myself reading your blog. Because (no offense) most other media can be boring, yet you however are interesting. All I have to say is that “secret meeting” is the best song by the National in their short history, hands down. I’m sure your review is oozing with validity, but it’s going to take a strong stomach and some highly potent over the counter drugs to allow me to survive an entire album of their “auditory depressants”. It’s like Joy Division without the innovation or suicidal tendencies. OK I’m done rambling…miss you brother…Riz

    • Riz,

      Thanks for reading man, we gotta hang soon! I appreciate you giving my blog a look; especially considering you are one of a handful of people with whom I respect for music. Although I love The National, I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that they are an acquired taste….and for some (like you) far too morose, but I dig it man, I dig it!

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