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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 9 June 2016
The National just get better with each release. They mine a seam of melancholy that appeals more and more as I get older; perhaps it's the world weariness and sense of just having to put one foot in front of the other (in both life and their music) that reaches out and touches so many nerves. That said, the music has an elegiac and uplifting spirit about it that never fails to inspire.
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on 3 November 2016
I can only echo the comments of the other reviewers here. This is a wonderful album which although not exactly uplifting is a beautiful piece of work.
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on 29 April 2017
This is an astounding album. My first listen was underwhelming: all the songs sound the same and there's lots of repetition of phrases. After my third time through one or two songs (Anyone's Ghost, Conversation 16) started to stand out and get stuck in my head. Eventually I put the album on repeat for a whole workday because suddenly it had broken through on all fronts. Even songs such as 'Little Faith' which seemed weak originally became elevated, and 'Runaway' is now a clear favourite. The album is so emotionally charged that it inevitably becomes irresistible.
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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
S.R.J
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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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on 7 April 2017
This is quite clearly a five star record, everything is exceptionally executed and genuinely flawless; anyone resting it otherwise is clearly poorly educated and bereft of intellect.
That may sound harsh, but my opinion is an authority due to my elite degrees and class and I apologise if it comes across as corrosive.
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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.
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VINE VOICEon 19 May 2010
Normally, I avoid any band touted as "the next biggest things" like some sort of flesh-eating-virus, and frankly, I'd rather gouge out my own eyeballs with a pair of rusty spoons than buy an album on the recommendation of any magazine or supposed expert. I like what I like, and I certainly won't be told what I'm supposed to like, not when it comes to music anyway. For that is the beauty of a love of music is it not? It's a highly personal thing. Ironic considering I'm about to write a review.

But, my love of Joy Division, Editors and any number of other frankly miserable bands lead me past the headline writers to this offering by "next biggest things" The National. And honestly, I'm impressed.

Think Leonard Cohen singing Editors. Think Tindersticks in 1080p wide-screen. Think a less conspiracy-theory obsessed Arcade Fire. Think a well produced, keenly crafted collection of sweeping, melancholic, rabble rousing, anti-anthems that get better and better as the album goes on.

The album begins with the rather plodding "Terrible Love" with it's distorted vocal coda and slowly building crescendo of chants and drums before it moves, thankfully I have to say, onto the rather more traditional "Sorrow". With a suitably miserable lyric as you'd expect with such a title ("Cover me with rag and bone sympathy/Cos I don't wanna get over you") the track, like the two that follow it, has some lovely driving bass and percussive lines, some woodwind instruments used to great emotional effect, and heartbreaking piano riffs. Once those four tracks are out of the way, the album gets better and better.

Stand-out track on the album, "Afraid of Everyone", hits you like a sucker punch ("With my kid on my shoulders/I try not to hurt anyone I like/But I don't have the drugs to sort it out/Sort it out"), building beautifully with a haunting backing vocal track supplied by some of the Arcade Fire rabble I believe. Single "Bloodbuzz Ohio" follows, another superb track which deals with the band looking almost mournfully back on their home-town from their new rockstar lifestyles in New York. Lemonworld, with it's rumbling drums and jagged guitar, details the post-traumatic return of a soldier from any number of foreign battles ("I gave my heart to the army/The only sentimental thing I could think of/Cousins and cousins and somewhere overseas/But it'll take a better war to kill a college man like me") and is utterly effective.

The rest of the album carries on in much the same vein; slowly brooding, building, multi-layered tracks, repeated vocal codas about failed marriages ("Conversation 16"), missing people ("England") and er geeks ("Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks") and beautiful string, brass and woodwind flourishes.

So, although unlike any number of music journalists I'm not telling you to buy this album, or extolling The National as the next Coldplay, U2 etc etc. I am however, saying this is an excellent album that's sure to fire the band into the commercial stratosphere and one I think you'll enjoy.
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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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