Album Review: The National - High Violet

The National - High Violet
The National - High Violet (Image courtesy of 4AD Records)

Our CD of the week is High Violet, the fifth full-length from The National. This has certainly been the most well received album of the band's career, thus far. You've heard the term "heartbreakingly beautiful" before, but there is no better way to sum up this record.

There was a story that came out during the early days of the recording of High Violet that said the band had decided to record a more positive, poppy album and that lead singer Matt Berninger had even taped the word "happy" up on his wall. Somewhere along the way he tore the word down and the band proceeded to record the music they were feeling. Let's face it, Matt Berninger's voice would sound completely alien if it was spouting shiny, happy lyrics, anyway.

Listening to the lyrics of "Sorrow" repeat "I don't want to get over you," or "I don't want anybody else" from "Anyone's Ghost" or "I was afraid I'd eat your brains 'cause I'm evil" from "Conversation 16" leads me to wonder if this is an introspective look into a relationship that slipped away. Though, I'll admit that a) I don't know anything about the band member's personal lives these days and b) I am not a songwriter. So, maybe things seem darker because Matt's baritone has an inherently sinister quality about it.

The line "I still owe money to the money to the money I owe" from "Bloodbuzz Ohio" is completely infectious and the driving percussion makes this the stand-out track on the record.

The record's first song "Terrible Love" starts off sounding like a rough, live recording, and it continues to build symphonically and vocally up to the crashing end.

"Lemonworld" screams to be placed on a mixtape next to Chris Bell's "You and Your Sister," and "Runaway" is just a simple, beautiful song with delicate yet complicated layers.

If High Violet isn't the perfect record for summer, then just wait, because it has autumn written all over it! In the meantime, think of it as the perfect accompaniment to a cloudy day or a break up. I'll say it again, "heartbreakingly beautiful."