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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
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VINE VOICEon 4 May 2010
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
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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.
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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.....
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on 11 May 2010
I first came across the National when somebody recommended Alligator to me. Got the album and didnt stop playing it for months, it's just one of those albums that you never seem to tire of hearing. Then, when Boxer came out in 2007, and on the back of the brilliant lead single Mistaken for Strangers, i with eager anticipation slipped the disc into the cd player in my car, waited for the fireworks to start, and..... nothing. What a disappointment. Coupled with a poor release from Interpol that summer it represented the nadir of that year musically. Then a strange thing happened, about 3 months later i was sitting in my home "office" late one night with a glass of single malt whisky, looking for an album to put on, and decided i owed Boxer the benefit of the doubt. Out came the headphones and on went the CD. This became a feature of Autumn 2007, me sitting late at night with the "cans" on, drink in hand, marvelling at the revelation of one great song after another- notably Fake Empire, Brainy, Slow Show, Guest Room and Start a War. It's a wonderful album (though not without flaw)but it just doesn't suit (IMO) being played as background music or in the car, it's an intense, brooding collection of songs that demands your full attention.

And so to High Violet. Naturally, having received the album i played it in the car out of curiosity but it just took me back to the above occassion 3 years ago. Only difference was this time i didnt panic, i just waited for darkness, crept upstairs cd in hand (sadly no whisky)and put it on.First impressions were that Peter Katis'(a very underrated producer in my opinion)reduced involvement in production duties was noticeable, particularly on Terrible Love, but that all the ingredients are there as with Boxer of an album that will be regularly listened to for months and years to come. Standout tracks for me; Sorrow, Anyone's Ghost, and Conversation 16 (if you thought Brainy was a little creepy, wait for the "i was afraid i'd eat your brains" refrain- no ordinary break-up song). But generally strong all the way through. I give it 4 stars rather than 5 at this point (2 full listens) because to do so would be more a review of Boxer and Alligator than on its own merits, but i think with enough late nights and whisky it has got the "minerals" to get that fifth star. So buy it, and get your headphones on..
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on 24 April 2010
Like the previous reviewer, I have been enjoying the stream of this over at the New York Times website. I'm going through my third listen as I write this, and it gets better each time I hear it.

The National are arguably the flagbearers of a real resurgence in American independent music. They have gained praise from fans and critics alike for their prior two records, Alligator and Boxer, in a similar manner to how R.E.M. became a word of mouth sensation in the early 80s.
High Violet, their fifth release, is for me the perfect blend of the styles of those two records - Alligator's in your face memorable hooks meets Boxer's measured slow burning approach. Lead single "Bloodbuzz Ohio" and "Afraid of Everyone" are prime examples: both have ridiculously catchy lyrics and yet both songs have a wonderful build as well. "Lemonworld" and "Anyone's Ghost" are in a similar vein and are also highlights.
From start to finish the quality just doesn't dip. The arrangements and playing by the brothers Dessner and Devendorf are assured, intricate and give the songs great depth, while Matt Berninger's lyrics feature great imagery and are very thought provoking.

This album simply hooks you in and has you begging for another listen so you can attempt to decipher it's rich and pleantiful wonders.
As far as I'm concerned, May 10th can't come fast enough.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 April 2010
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!
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What defines a great album? One characteristic is that the album leaves you feeling that the whole experience is somehow greater than just listening to each track separately. Think about Exile on Main Street - two or three instant standouts granted, but its the whole start-to-finish experience that makes it THE Rolling Stones record. For me the same applies to High Violet - The National have created not just a wonderful record, but a suite of songs where the whole is mightier than its component parts. However good its predecessor (Boxer) was, it didn't achieve this and therefore The National continue to move triumphantly forwards.

Two pleas - I hope the one star reviewers here give High Violet another go - they are missing a real treat. Also, with more and more folk going for mix-and-match track downloads will the true artistry of the coherent album statement be lost forever?? Shame, shame, shame....
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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.
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on 15 January 2011
Its to my great shame that I have taken so long to find out about The National. This time last week my life was less enriched than it is now, thanks to this album, and it's sibling album "The Boxer" This is proper music, intelligent, articulate, multifaceted, emotional.....I have listened to the album 3 times now and with each play I'm further emerged in it. You continually discover new things, nuances, meanings of lyrics...its the gift that keeps on giving.

Buy this album, no ifs or buts....its truly a masterpiece!
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