Monday, May 10, 2010


The National
High Violet
2010, 4AD Records
6 out of 10

High Violet, the new record by recent Brooklyn transplants The National is a bit of a downer. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing; it is what it is. And what it is , though, is good ...if you're in the mood for this sort of thing, that is.

You need to be in the mood for these romantic dirges to really enjoy them. Perhaps your lover has left you. Or you've been fired from your job. Maybe a parking ticket has recently been issued to you and your automobile. Worry not: High Violet has you covered.

"I don't want to get over you," inflects The National's Matt Berninger on "Sorrow" in a baritone reminiscent of Nick Cave, Stuart Staples or Leonard Cohen, but with a heavy shellac of cough syrup coating. His is a voice of longing, like an animal who has finally surrendered to a gun shot wound or toothy trap impaling its paw. "I don't have the drugs to sort it out," he later  throat-fully mellows on "I'm Afraid Of Everyone," as if the pain in his voice over the album's other 10 tracks didn't make this so, so evident.

If you're hoping for a high moment on High Violet, you ain't getting one. The Arcade Fire-esque "Bloodbuzz Ohio" may lull you into believing it might be the ray of light in the tar-covered walls of this album - what with it's shimmering guitars, jaunty percussion and such - but forget about it! Beringer's velvet hammer vocal make quick work of hope and happiness.

Now, all this moody and maudlin moaning and delicate slowcore instrumentation may not be the best pick for, say, a wedding, a graduation party or love-bugging, but High Violet is a pretty damn fine album, all the same. The National know that life isn't all rainbows, unicorns and cotton candy (yes indeed, they don't seem to frequent a lot of carnivals), and sometimes you need to wallow a bit, from time-to-time. Curled-up on a couch, watching the overcast day crawl by and wondering, "How could this have happened to me?", The National have practically provided you and your wounded heart with the perfect soundtrack.

Yes, you should to be in a sad space to fully enjoy the impact of this album. High Violet will not (NOT!) work as background music for a friendly get together. No. This is a solitary album, perfect for "alone time," replete with candles, a glass of wine and your journal. It's on 4AD, for crying out loud (oh, and you will!), and this label was practically responsible for over half of the depressing albums released during the 1990's. So there's that.

High Violet is your downtime companion - the only one you'll need. Let the tears commence.

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