12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 12 May 2011
When i was first given this album, I was a bit dubious. On first listen it sounded a bit monotonous- Matt Berninger's baritone seemingly numbing the subtle, low key tunes. However, gradually, tracks began to bloom. The second half of the album did this first- Lemon World's unusual detail in the chorus was quickly overwhelmed by some of the most beautiful verses i've heared- once they've caught, you'll do well to stop listening to it all day. Vanderlyle- the last track and England, the penultimate one, soon became tracks I would enjoy immensely. However, it's the first half of the album that eventually offered the most. Tracks 1,3 4 and 5 all gleamed after a number of listens into some of my favourite tracks of the year. But it's Sorrow that has overwhelmed me. You'll do well to find a subtler, more beautiful song than this.
On reflection, this is certainly one of the best albums i've owned; the coherence of the entire listen, and the incredible quality of the individual tracks themselves all make a remarkable piece of work.
If you're put off by the first couple of listens, please persist. It'll reward you many times over
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 11 October 2011
This is music to mend the tortured of souls of those who're considered (and in many cases are) mature and experienced. Not to mend exactly, actually, since when you're such in a state, most of the time you only want to be heard by someone. Just to be heard. A voice full of discomfort and anxiety that just wishes to be heard. And to be heard by someone not to be given solutions, criticism or plans. It's just about a voice of a soul survivor, of a man or woman witness of the times that they had to live. A voice. The only thing among silence and the only thing which is capable to confront the relentless persistence of memory and unforgiveness. It's about how you become older, and even though you still have plans and wishes for the future, you just come outside to smoke a cigarette and take a look at all things that have passed in front of yours eyes and you realize how much you had to do of all to which you were completely opposed. As clames the magnificent Runaway: "What makes you think that I'm enjoying this? / We don't bleed and we don't fight. / Go ahead, go ahead. / Throw your arms in the air tonight. /Throw your shirts in the fire tonight." Just come to terms with the things lost in the fire of time, take your dignity and renaissance in water and keep on walking, 'cause there's nothing left to do anymore. We're the soul survivors.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
If you have been with them a while, you have , I suspect been frustrated at how such musical magnificence can go so unnoticed. Surely they can't go on producing such statuesque musical moments of beauty, without the world sitting up and taking notice. It seems the world is, if the 'buzz' about High Violet is anything to go by, at last coming to its senses. If you heard Boxer then you may well have wondedered if it could be done again or bettered.Well I will be honest I dont know yet- its feels as good, but dont know if it will linger in my head and create such devotion as Boxer did.
As I write I am listening to 'England', my arms are tingling,it is spellbinding. Hyperbolae ? exaggeration? No, I kid you not, this band are as perfect as you are going to get, musically, lyrically and as good as it gets. it has one minor flaw, there isn't an immediately accessible track, that makes you go around humming its tune (as is 'Fake Empire from Boxer), 'Lemonworld' is as near as this album gets to catchy. So where does the force come from, as usual its Matt Beringers voice (haunting without trying) and if you are sick of basic 4/4/ drumming, then have a listen to some of the magnificent drum patterns that weave around sparse guitar work and gentle piano.I have read somewhere they did 80 takes of one song, then plumped for the original take-you get that feeling of dedication and intensity on every song.
Its intense, powerfully subtle, and quite beautiful.
I dont care if its deemed album of the year, its my album of the moment, a bone fide masterpiece.It has restored my faith in new music
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 14 January 2011
The National have a very natural apparently uncontrived voice, when you listen to one of their albums it feels as if you are listening to music that has been made for its own sake. The style is laconic and is sometimes touching, sometimes quizzical, but all offerings are carefully crafted. High Violet has a coming of age feel to it, like shaking off a time or mood, and aspires to the big crowd anthem sound that should have been theirs before now. The highlights are 'terrible love' and 'bloodbuzz ohio' but every song has that photograph moment where it chimes with your own emotion or experience. It is a camera obscura of music. This album has the curious quality of being able to sit quietly through your headphones or blast out of your speakers and sound equally good. I would highly recommend this band and this album and think there is even better to come.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 May 2010
Other people's reviews of the music you love can be annoying, can't they? Even when they're praising the music you love. Often the most intense sensations great music induces are best left undescribed, and people's opinions only get in the way of the music. The National confirm with this album that they are the finest band on the planet, and are now arguably the finest band ever to come out of the States. It's not just the memorable use of melody, it's the amount of detail that is breathed into their musical landscapes. It's the breathtaking synergy of music and lyric. Berninger is the obvious star, but the music spotlights his once-in-a-generation sensibility. 'England' is arguably the best thing they've ever recorded, its melancholy sweep simultaneously grand and intimate; 'Terrible Love' is one of their most brilliantly dynamic and original pieces, and acts as a real attention-getter at the start, making you aware that you're in for something very special. The 'cos I'm evil' refrain of 'Conversation 16' is one of the absolute highlights of the album. 'Runaway' provides arguably the most affecting moment on the album, Berninger insisting 'We don't bleed when we don't fight', but implying they fight like cats and dogs in contravention of this sound logic. It's a piece that grows and grows with each listen. Originally I thought 'Bloodbuzz Ohio' was a slightly weak centre to the album, but this too asserts itself with Berninger's heartfelt 'God I am', and the despairing emptiness of returning to your native place and finding it doesn't give a fig about you. 'Little Faith' is a slight departure with its bassline groove, and is one of the album's most subtle delights. 'Sorrow' is flatout brilliance, as immediate and powerful and direct as a funeral. 'Anyone's Ghost' hooks every time with its 'I don't want anybody else' refrain, but the best bit is when Berninger sings: 'You said it was night inside my heart - it was! You said it should tear a kid apart - it does!' The family man of Afraid of Everyone is a tragi-comic figure, a kind of American everyman in the age of terrorism and social entropy, defending his family with nothing more than an orange umbrella and some starspangled tennis shoes on his feet. The closer, 'Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks,' is lyrically opaque, melodically amazing, resonating gospelly in the chorus, it's the song I keep singing to myself, even though I have no idea what it means. The album is way better than Boxer, way better than Alligator, both of which were unbelievably great. How long can a band keep developing the way The National have? I reckon they probably have one more interstellar album in them, which may even top this one. But it will take a Herculean effort.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 22 April 2011
this album is just so amazing it will have you totally immersed in its enchantment the tracks all sound so good england runaway terrible love and sorrow are just so brilliant not a bad track on there as good as arcade fires suburbs just buy
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I love The National and I confess that I have been listening to this album for a while now. For me the new record had a lot to live up to. It doesn't disappoint!
Fans all know that the music of The National gets better the more you listen (and concentrate). Highly emotive, poetic lyrics, layered orchestration, complex driving drums, cinematic vistas are all present and correct here. What lifts the new record above all previous efforts is the added layers of vocal backing (thanks to Justin Vernon of Bon Iver), which now adds in Beach Boys levels of harmony to the mix on some tracks.
Matt Berninger's limited range baritone is perfectly offset by the new soundscape. As ever, he captures the sad fractured anxiety / bombast of middle-aged, middle-class males. He certainly has a way with words, but it is the way that words combine with the music that marks out The National as something very special.
This is slightly quieter album than Boxer and Alligator. The result is the subtly of the arrangements is given space to breath. It will be interesting to see how this plays out live.
So overall High Violet stands as another brilliant album from an excellent band. Place your order now!
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2011
I am totally new to this band. My friend introduced me to them last week and we're off to see them at Latitude. Completely spellbinding stuff - I have my own thoughts on some of their influences but I don't want to analyse them and get slated by another reviewer!
Listening to 'England' - cracking track. These guys are truly superb musicians. I haven't had this addiction to an album since my teens (in my forties now!) and cannot wait to see them live. Now need to buy some previous albums.....
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 July 2010
High Violet is a step up from the high standards already set by the National on Boxer & Alligator. It is a superb album full of beautiful songs, intriguing stories and trilling musicianship. There is no filler here - every song stands on its own and the five song run from Blood Buzz Ohio through to England is as strong as any sequence I've every hear. The album is a cohesive piece of work that deserves to be listened to all the way through. High Violet stands comparison to the best work of the rock era - comparable in quality to Imperial Bedroom (Elvis Costello) or Revolver. I read descriptions of the National as a downbeat, routine indie band. These are lazy criticisms from closed ears. High Violet is a fantastic album which should bring the National the global success they deserve.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The American music blogs have been boiling over like excited Icelandic volcano's about the release of "High Violet" not least of all because of the National's recent brilliant performance of the epic opener "Terrible love" on the Jimmy Fallon show. The National it appears have found a match to "Fake Empire" from Boxer and "Terrible Love" signals the beginning of an album which might make this sibling heavy band from Cincinnati candidates for world domination. The National are comprised of two sets of brothers the twin guitar-playing Bryce and Aaron Dessner and Bryan and Scott Devendorf, respectively on drums and bass. It is vocalist Matt Berninger however who is there most powerful weapon with a baritone voice that does have real limitations but which he effortlessly turns into a significant asset. It's lovelorn and melancholy timbre once led to unfair accusations that the National were a bunch of Interpol or Joy Division copyists and the word "gloomy" regularly cropped up in articles on the band. There last album "Boxer" firmly laid that ghost to rest putting in place one of the most complete and "uplifting" albums in recent years which grows on every listen and with songs like "Racing like a pro", "Ada", "Mistaken for Strangers" and "Brainy" demonstrating that elusive edge that all Premier division rock bands have over their immediate contemporaries.
So we come to the National's new album "High Violet" which fully justifies the "fit to bursting" anticipation which has swirled around its release and which the New York Times rightly argues sees this band reach out to create "a powerful, probing feeling for the inner lives of average people out in the American heartland". and set out a huge claim to be the Great American Band. Thank you in addition to the wonderful Amazon pre order system which transported a copy of "High Violet" to this humble abode a full four days before its "official" release date.
"High Violet" largely meets and often exceeds the burgeoning anticipation that has preceded its release. It marks a dramatic step up in the quality of songs and the underpinning musicianship. The excellent single "Bloodbuzz Ohio" has been well trailed while the sombre but dramatic "Lemonworld" is hugely engaging. In the heart wrenching "Little Faith" Berninger sings of being "stuck in New York in a rainstorm" as the instrumentation around him swirls and you can almost hear the raindrops on the sidewalk. Four songs in particular that anchor this album which are "Runaway", "Terrible love" and "Afraid of everyone" and the truly brilliant "Conversation 16" all are instant classics. "Runaway" in particular has been previewed live for over a year and in that time the National have perfected it. Building and building, never consciously overstated it is slow rolling ballad and probably represents Berninger's best vocal performance to date. "Conversation 16" is a stunning highlight with brilliant drumming (a key feature throughout), a yearning timeless melody and gorgeous verses where Berninger speaks of leaving the "silver city to all the silver girls" and announces that -
"I'm a confident liar
Had my head in the oven so you'd know where I'll be
I'll try to be more romantic
I want to believe in everything you believe"
It can only be an American for example who could sing a song like "England" and actually pull it off with its lovely ode to London. I have no idea what are "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" but the last song with its guest vocal from Bon Iver confirms that the second half of "High Violet" is especially strong. This is not an album that fizzles out over its course instead it builds to a mighty crescendo. Other songs on the album like "Sorrow" and "Anyone's ghost" are more conventional National songs which on any other album would be absolute stand outs but the quality of the music on High Violet is so high its almost like a game of musical chairs as the songs demand there place on your rotation list and you are left to agonize over which one you should listen to next. As far as I can tell on repeated listens to this over the recent period this is a "dud" free zone and this is at a point where it has yet to fully reveal all its hidden depths.
The National have also packed this album with guest players such as Sufjan Stevens on "Afraid of Everyone", Richie Reed Parry (Arcade Fire) and Thomas Bartlett (Doveman) which adds to its completeness. Ultimately "High Violet" not only cements the National's reputation as the complete package with three damn near perfect albums under their belts from "Alligator" onwards, but more importantly like all great albums "High Violet" stands in its own right as a bold and beautiful statement. Like a great novel it is a remarkable and fully finished piece of work, one of the best of the century thus far and a complete and utter triumph.