There aren’t many bands that are able to tap into my mind and connect with me emotionally like The National. With each album the band seems to find new ways to improve. With High Violet, I held the National to sky high expectations, with little doubt that they would live up to them. Look at that, they did.
“Terrible Love” opens the album, and fittingly so. The National’s performance of Terrible Love on Jimmy Fallon was the first real taste of promotion for the album, after all. The band decided to use the demo version on the album, finding no other takes fitting. It was a gutsy move, but one that paid dividends. This version builds upon itself gaining momentum with every passing second. It’s a grand statement amongst an album built with them.
Matt and the rest of the band came together to create an album that drips with rich imagery and vignettes that we can all relate to. We have all felt the sorrow that Matt sings about in “Sorrow”. We are used to him describing life as a middle class man. He still does, but now he has a wife and child. His focus is on his family, and now his thoughts are more self-conscious then ever before.
“Afraid Of Everyone” is hidden with elements of Joy Division with it’s vibrant drumbeat. When Matt sings, “You’re the voices swallowing my soul, soul, soul,” you can’t help but get swept up. “Lemonworld” was a song that the band argued over for months unable to decide on which take to use. It turns out that sometimes more is less, especially with such a strong song as “Lemonworld.” It sits alongside “Conversation 16” as one of High Violet’s finest moments. I don’t think there will be a more beautiful moment on any song this year then when Matt sings “I was afraid I’d eat your brains…cause I’m evil.” It’s the type of moment the National have become so great at creating. You almost come to expect it.
High Violet is built with moments that will stop you in your tracks. Moments that deserve to be played on vinyl with good speakers. Bryan Devendorf once again steals the show as the drummer, crafting beats and drum fills that the band would feel lost without. He serves as both the backbone and the heart of the band. Then you have the Dessner twins who use their guitars as another voice in the band.
Matt’s vocals have never sounded better. He learned how to use his voice to complement the band, rather than to stretch it too far, as some felt he did on Boxer. It works like a charm, completely rounding out the band’s sound. They sound stronger than ever.
The National had high expectations to live up to. They came back with a powerful album full of dense songs that improve upon each listen. These are songs that call for listens in the dark with a bottle of wine, ready for quality digestion. The National have given us a piece of art, and it is up to us to truly appreciate it. It is my album of the year right now. I don’t think there will be another album that I will attach myself like I have with High Violet. I dare someone to prove me wrong.