There’s been so much anticipation and buzz over High Violet, the latest album from the National. When I think of the National, I think: hey, here’s 5 guys I trust to keep making good music for a long, long time. I had almost no doubt that I’m gonna like the album but after finally hearing it, it’s difficult to describe why I’ve fallen so irreversibly in love with the new music; I just really really adore it for the way it is.
High Violet has very few dramatic high points; though it is not boring nor unimaginative, it plays like one long, protracted denouement. You get the impression that the music serves as resolution for a prior dramatic event, and the ultimate endpoint here is to attain closure.
This album is the result of a series of wise, subtle choices. The different players don’t shout for your attention but they are each luminaries; mutually encouraging , building on one another to give the album an almost cinematic veneer. (For example, Afraid of Everyone is an immaculate depiction of the melancholic viewing of crumbling buildings and dilapidated scenery through the window of a moving car.) The misc-en-scene consists of Bryan Devendorf’s impressively dependable drumming as well as Scott Devendorf, Aaron and Bryce Dessner’s mild mannered guitars and keyboards. But it is Matt Berninger’s hollow baritone that connects the dots. Berninger sings like a broken man, a little monotonous and without much emotion. He’s the perfect narrative voice to the story, a neutral, submissive protagonist whom the listener can project his/her own feelings and thoughts onto; a fluid conduit to submerge the listener into the total album experience.
The album begins like a sad story, especially Anyone’s Ghost, a song that creates a haunting and heart-throbbing atmosphere that will likely manage to corrode your psyche. The music gets a little stoic and serious, and when it begins to feel like a life lived without any purpose, along comes Bloodbuzz Ohio, arguably one of the best tracks of the entire album, a moving and sentimental overture that injects just the right amount of levity to keep your spirits afloat.
Unfortunately, we, the listeners are a generation suffering from the ultimate urban disease: the growing emptiness within individuals leading modern lives of convenient solitude. With a blooming hole in our chests, some of us fill it with food, others with sex and money, but what about the majority of the rest?
They fill it with music. And in that area, High Violet is more than adequate.
Download Bloodbuzz Ohio here.
High Violet will be officially released on May,11.