The National High Violet
This is the much-anticipated follow up album to “Boxer,” The National’s 2007 album that landed them on many year-end best of lists and helped propel them to the forefront of indie rock. High Violet is a slow-burning, mid-tempo album that has excellent atmosphere in a brooding, darkly beautiful sort of way that The National has seemed to make their signature sound. The National is most recognizable for lead singer Matt Berninger’s emotive baritone vocals, and “High Violet” definitely follows in the footsteps of their previous releases. This album sounds a bit more bright and warm than their previous work, but the lyrics in particular reflect a melancholy and weary mentality. “Bloodbuzz Ohio” (track 6) is one of my favorites off of the album, it perfectly seems to encapsulate the beautiful, literate chamber-pop sound that The National has seemed to perfect. I feel like this album improves with each listen; overall it is perhaps not the most upbeat album (what would you expect with track titles like “Sorrow” (2)), but still it’s a beautiful release, love the instrumentation and intelligent lyrics. Allmusic listed them as “sadcore,” a term I haven’t really heard before, find it a bit humorous, but I suppose I would have to agree, The National are sad in a pretty awesomely hardcore way.
“Conversation 16” is another standout track, even with the haunting repetition of the lyrics “I was afraid I would eat your brains/ cause I’m evil,” it is still a remarkably beautiful and pleasant song. Here is a video of The National performing “Conversation 16” at the Fox Theater in Oakland on May 27:
I got my Sufjan fix with this album, albeit with Stevens only contributing background vocals. Sufjan Stevens collaborated with Berninger and co. on “Afraid of Everyone” (track 5), which reflects a sort of midlife/cultural crisis with lyrics like “With my kids on my shoulders I try not to hurt anybody out loud/ But I don’t have the drugs to sort it out.”
Check out The National with Sufjan Stevens performing “Afraid of Everyone” on Letterman on May 13:
Ooh how I love The National, what a great band. “Boxer” was one of my faves for a long time, I have the most vivid memory of listening to it for the first time while driving around the looping bridges of Portland, Oregon in 2007.
(In my humble opinion:) Best Tracks from “Boxer”: Ada, Slow Show, Fake Empire
Best Tracks from “Alligator”: Secret Meeting, Baby We’ll Be Fine