New Music: The National, High Violet

As we’ve previously discussed, there are a lot of new albums by great artists coming out this year, and the best of the current crop that just hit the pavement may be the new album High Violet by The National.

The National have never been accused of being overly cheerful. Rather, they follow the trail of woe blazed by bands like The Cure, Joy Division and Interpol in which melancholy and dolor are understood as the expected state of being.

Because of this, such bands, and The National in particular, sometimes are victims of their own somberness, in that it makes them less accessible to the insufficiently medicated. So much so that in one early performance of “Terrible Love” from this album, the band felt it necessary to explain to their audience that “Terrible Love is actually a good thing… it doesn’t mean we’re depressed.”

But with this band, persistence yields great rewards. Their last two albums, Alligator (2005) and Boxer (2007) were amazing, especially when you focused on the standout singles:

The new album doesn’t appear to have a standout single per se, and it never seems to reach the climax that the others did, which is a disappointment until you go back and realize that the whole album is a standout. Some songs are better than others, of course but there is not a weak song on the album and the songs seem to stand together better than most any album in recent memory. The lyrics, in particular, bear repeated hearings, especially since lead singer Matt Berninger’s vocals sometimes seem to seep directly out of his subconscious. And how can you argue with the romantic tenderness of a ballad that ends like this:

I was afraid I’d eat your brains
I was afraid I’d eat your brains

Cause I’m evil
Cause I’m evil
Cause I’m evil

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