The much anticipated 5th LP High Violet from The National dropped back in May, and apparently to great fanfare. It opened at #3 (!) on the US Billboard 200 and garnered an eye-popping 8.7/10 from Pitchfork. Indeed, it seems that the moody rockers have appeared to hit it just right with its listeners, though this writer is not as enthusiastic. The bottom line is this: I was always fine with The National going the way of the downtrodden and dramatic artist, as long as they stuck with intriguing melodies and harmonies that almost belied the lyrics. With High Violet, that element has surely been lost to some degree.
Briefly, some highlights (and lowlights):
“Terrible Love” – I can this being a single, and it’s true to The National sound. Not exactly my cup of tea, but I could grow into loving it.
“Sorrow” – Queue up the rainy day. Let it fly.
“Anyone’s Ghost” – Meh. The redundant chorus and the lackadaisical instrumentation don’t do it for me.
“Little Faith” – It’s been growing on me. The hovering strings and Berninger’s drawn-out drawl is fantastic.
“Lemonworld” – ‘Gave my heart to the army. Only sentimental thing I could think of.’ Gotta love it.
“Conversation 16″ – Emotive and resilient, but I wasn’t afraid of anyone eating anyone’s brains.
“England” – Urgent, melodic, awesome, epic. This is exactly the sound I was hoping for on High Violet. Lo, behold the mighty horns! Finally, I hear the strings! This song itself makes up for everything on this album.
“Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” – The slow-rolling ballad perfectly balances the booming drums and the delicate ivory/ebony keys.