The National

High Violet

Written by: TL on 25/06/2010 23:50:26

While this may very well be the first ever review of The National here on Rockfreaks.net, their appearance on this year's Roskilde Festival has made sure yours truly has still managed to listen to every album of theirs, though I will admit, not enough to accurately compare all of them to their new, highly anticipated, opus "High Violet".

In case you're new to The National, what you need to know is that they play a dark, introspective and moody brand of alternative rock, calling to mind comparisons to bands like The Twilight Sad or Death Cab For Cutie - At least if you think of "Plans" and ignore the difference in vocals. A difference easily noted as The National's minimalistic soundscape relies as much on the charisma of lead singer Matt Berninger's calm baritone and quirky lyrics, as it does on the progressive layers of chords from both normal 'rock' instruments, as well as the odd key and string.

Comparing "High Violet" to "Alligator", the third album which is the one I've personally heard the most, it would seem that changes are minor, but if you keep your ears open, you should notice that the new tracks are slightly more up-beat and light in general. "Terrible Love" for instance, opens up featuring the band at their loudest and recalling the excellent closer of the earlier record, "Mr. November", although never becoming quite as intense. My personal highlights of the disc are "Afraid Of Everyone", "England" and especially "Bloodbuzz Ohio", all three of which feature lines that come the closest to the memorability of those that fans will remember from "Alligator".

I almost feel like arguing that "High Violet" is stronger than "Alligator" track by track, but that the highlights of the latter were slightly better individually, but in reality, the difference is disappearingly small, and listening to the two albums back to back will leave you with no other conclusion than that The National are simply consistent in their output of material of character and quality these days. The only real difference I can spot is that where maybe the good parts of "Alligator" were a little more obscure and required a little more attention from the listener, repetition and build-ups make sure that "High Violet"'s songs make their impression more effectively. Whether that's a good thing or not though, I guess depends on where you locate yourself between indie and pop aesthetics, and regardless, it doesn't change that The National make great records, and "High Violet" is just another example of that.

8

Download: Bloodbuzz Ohio, England, Afraid Of Everyone
For The Fans Of: Death Cab For Cutie, The Twilight Sad, Kashmir
Listen: myspace.com/thenational

Release Date 10.05.2010
4AD

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