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High Violet (Expanded Edition)

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Album Review

The National have worn a lot of hats since their 2001 debut, but they’ve never been able to shake the rural, book-smart, quiet violence of the Midwest. The Brooklyn-groomed, Ohio-bred indie rock quintet’s fifth full-length album navigates that lonely dirt road where swagger meets desperation like a seasoned tour guide, and while it may take a few songs to get going, there are treasures to be found for patient passengers. The National's profile rose considerably after 2007’s critically acclaimed The Boxer, and they have used that capital to craft a flawed gem of a record that highlights their strengths and weaknesses with copious amounts of red ink. High Violet oozes atmosphere, but moves at a snail’s pace. The Cousteau-esque “Terrible Love” hardly bursts out of the gate, and the subsequent “Sorrow” and “Anyone’s Ghost” (despite Bryan Devendorf’s locomotive drumming) lack the hooks to reel anybody in on first listen. The album begins to take shape on “Afraid of Everyone,” a slow build, midtempo rocker that expertly utilizes the Clogs' (guitarist Bryce Dessner's other chamber pop band) prickly orchestrations, but it’s the punishing “Bloodbuzz Ohio” that serves as High Violet's centerpiece. Built on a foundation that fuses together TV on the Radio's “Halfway Home” and Arcade Fire's “No Cars Go,” its refrain of “I still owe money to the money, to the money I owe” seems both relevant and nostalgic, resulting in a highway anthem that feels like the anti-“Born to Run.” Other standout cuts, like “Conversation 16,” “England," and the darkly funny/oddly beautiful closer, “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks,” trumpet High Violet's second-half supremacy, but even they tremble beneath the "Bloodbuzz" intoxication. Muscular, miserable, mighty, and meandering, High Violet swings for the fences, but only hits it half the time. [The expanded edition of High Violet includes a bonus disc with an alternate version of "Terrible Love," three live tracks, and four previously unreleased cuts.]

Customer Reviews

High violet

The best lp 2010 and the most skinny anthem low voice! If you like music with reason


Glad this is a 4AD album, excellent alternative, moody, 2 years on, a classic.
By far the best National outing


Formed: 1999 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Although formed during the post-punk revival of the late '90s, the National took inspiration from a wider set of influences, including country-rock, Americana, indie rock, and Brit-pop. The lineup began taking shape in Ohio and officially cemented itself in New York, with baritone vocalist Matt Berninger joining forces with two sets of brothers -- Scott (bass) and Bryan Devendorf (drums), and Aaron (guitar) and Bryce Dessner (guitar). After establishing themselves as a live act, the bandmates made...
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High Violet (Expanded Edition), The National
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